Even Monkeys Demand Equal Pay For Equal Work

Photo by istockphoto.com

By Lorene Schaefer

In 1925, the famed Scopes Monkey Trial occurred in Tennessee. The public feverishly debated whether evolution contradicted certain religious teachings and whether humans, viewed by many to be a superior lot, could be related in any respect to monkeys.

A recent video on monkey behavior (and, perhaps, human psychology?) is certainly telling.

Briefly, two monkeys are given the same job, but are rewarded differently. The slighted monkey receives watery cucumbers rather than juicy grapes like his co-worker-monkey does for the same work. The reaction of the slighted monkey is priceless!

Here’s the video:

Equal pay is the law of the land

While I still chuckle every time I view this video, it is somewhat sobering that the fundamental unfairness of unequal pay for equal work still rears its ugly head today in the “human workplace.”

Even women lawyers aren’t immune from the ugliness as the American Bar Association – Commission on Women reports that in 2011 the average woman lawyers’ weekly salary as a percentage of male lawyers’ salary was 86.6 percent.

Equal pay for equal work has been the law since 1963, which was a pivotal legislative year for civil rights in the workplace. Not only was Title VII of the Civil Right Act passed that guaranteed equal employment opportunity regardless of race and other classifications, but the Equal Pay Act also was passed.

Under the Equal Pay Act (EPA), covered employers are prohibited from paying differing wages, based upon the sex of the employee, for equal work on jobs requiring equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions. Today, this act seems almost redundant of Title VII, but in 1963 it was clearly necessary. Then, policies that men were paid more than women for the same work were rampant, justified with the logic that men were responsible for being the breadwinner to their families.

Social Media make it easier to protest unequal pay

The bottom line is that fundamental unfairness is just as obvious, palpable, and odious to monkeys as it was and continues to be today to humans.

In the brave new world of the Internet and social media whether an employer is ever held accountable legally for permitting such double standards is not the end of the risk analysis. As I’ve written about in the past, in today’s world what was yesterday’s griping around the water cooler is today’s tweet heard around the world.

A quick look at the comments on Glassdoor provides a good example of this new reality.

Employer “A” Glassdoor comment:

“Equal pay for equal work.”

Pros – Good career opportunities. Good benefits and fair wages.

Cons – Incompetent management and good old boy attitude. No room for advancement as a female.

Advice to Senior Management – Have a more positive outlook for promoting women.

Employer B Glassdoor comment:

“Discrimination and Untrustworthy”

Pros – When things are slow and going right, it’s a laid back atmosphere.

Most customers are beer brewers, they are cool to work with.

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You can (for now) listen to your MP3 player while working.

It pays the bills if you’re desperate for a job.

Cons – There is ongoing sexual harassment and gender discrimination that management will not address.

Salaries have been based off of gender and parental status, this was stated by upper management.

Bonuses are offered in job offer to get you to sign on, but bonuses never pay out even if the company makes money.

A member of upper management has extremely poor communication skills and a very bad temper, has put holes in the walls in anger at work. It’s a small company, you will work with him.

Customers have been told they don’t matter as long as the company makes a profit.

People who have worked here for years or have any skill are leaving left and right.

Advice to Senior Management – Unfortunately, any advice would fall on deaf ears, the managers will do what they want, when they want, and how they want with no regard to other employees. All that matters to the company is how much money they make.

Insights for employers

All that to say, if a monkey is smart enough to recognize disparate treatment, employers should be more keenly aware that monitoring compensation for legal compliance is important not only to avoid lawsuits or government investigations but also to maintain good morale and to retain great employees.

Employers who fail to do so should not be surprised when their employees decide to throw back their watery cucumbers and act on their frustration through complaints to the government, to the public on social media, through unionization activity or by filing a lawsuit.

This originally appeared on Lorene Schaefer’s Win-Win HR blog

Lorene Schaefer, Esq. is president of Workplace Investigations Group, a company providing employers with a national panel of professional workplace investigators who are all attorneys and have a minimum of 10 years of employment litigation experience. They draw on their professional expertise to conduct prompt, thorough and cost-effective internal investigations into complaints of harassment, discrimination, retaliation and other workplace misconduct. Lorene is also a mediator with One Mediation, Inc. Contact her at lorene@winwinhr.com, and follow her on Twitter at Twitter.com/WinWinHR.


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