How Do You Prove Wage Discrimination?

How Do You Prove Wage Discrimination?It has been more than 50 years since wage discrimination became illegal in the United States, yet persistent pay gaps between men and women, different races, younger and older employees, and those with and without disabilities still exist.

Wage discrimination in the U.S. is a significant issue, and various studies and data sources highlight persistent disparities in earnings based on gender, race, ethnicity, and other factors. While progress has been made in certain areas, wage gaps persist, contributing to economic inequalities. According to a Pew Research Center study, American women earned an average of 82 percent of what men earned in 2022, similar to the pay gap in 2002, when women were paid 80 percent of what men were paid.

What is considered wage discrimination?

Wage discrimination refers to employees’ unfair or unequal treatment based on their gender, race, ethnicity, age, disability, or other protected characteristics, resulting in disparities in compensation for individuals who perform substantially similar work. It is a form of employment discrimination that occurs when employees receive different pay or benefits for reasons unrelated to their job performance or qualifications.

The key characteristics of wage discrimination include:

  • Gender wage gap: One of the most widely discussed forms of wage discrimination, gender wage gap is the disparity in earnings between men and women. Despite efforts to address this issue, women working full-time earn approximately 7 percent of what men are paid. As a result of lower lifetime earnings, women even receive less Social Security income than men.
  • Racial and ethnic wage disparities: Wage discrimination is also apparent along racial and ethnic lines, where individuals from certain racial or ethnic groups may experience lower wages compared to their counterparts doing similar work.
  • Age discrimination: Age-based wage discrimination occurs when older or younger workers receive unequal pay for substantially similar work solely because of their age. According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), the wage gap for older women is larger than for younger women, with older Black and Hispanic women experiencing the most extreme differences in pay.
  • Disability discrimination: Employees with disabilities may also face wage discrimination if they receive lower pay for the same work due to their disability. Disability discrimination is prohibited under various laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Wage discrimination can also occur based on religion, national origin, sexual orientation, or genetic information.

Is wage discrimination illegal?

Many countries, including the United States, have enacted laws to promote pay equity and outlaw discriminatory pay practices. In the U.S., the Equal Pay Act (EPA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are the main federal laws that address wage discrimination.

Employers are generally prohibited from paying employees differently based on protected characteristics, and employees have the right to challenge discriminatory pay practices through legal channels. Both employers and employees must be aware of their rights and obligations under applicable laws to promote fair and equal compensation in the workplace.

Making a case for wage discrimination

Proving wage discrimination can be challenging, but there are several steps you can take to gather evidence and build a case. It’s important to note that laws regarding wage discrimination vary by jurisdiction, so it’s advisable to consult with legal professionals who are familiar with the specific laws in your area. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Document your salary information. Maintain detailed records of your salary history, including starting salary, raises, promotions, and bonuses. Compare your compensation with colleagues in similar roles to identify potential disparities.
  • Gather evidence of job performance. Collect verification of your job performance, achievements, and responsibilities, including performance reviews, commendations, or other documentation demonstrating your organizational contributions.
  • Compare salaries within the company. If possible, gather information on the salaries of colleagues who perform similar work with similar experience and qualifications to help establish a basis for comparison and identify any inconsistencies.
  • Research industry salary data. Apply industry salary surveys or websites to gather data on typical salaries for your role in your geographical location. This external benchmarking can provide additional context for evaluating your compensation.
  • Document instances of discrimination. If you have experienced occurrences of discrimination or have evidence of biased treatment related to your compensation—discriminatory comments, unequal opportunities, or any other relevant incidents—document these instances.
  • Review company policies. Become familiar with your company’s policies on compensation, promotions, and performance evaluations. Ensure that you understand the criteria and processes for determining salaries.
  • Consult with colleagues. If possible, discreetly discuss compensation with your colleagues to gain insights into their experiences, but be cautious about sharing sensitive information and ensure compliance with workplace confidentiality rules.
  • File a formal complaint. If you believe you have evidence of wage discrimination, follow your company’s procedures for filing a formal complaint, which might involve reporting the issue to human resources or another designated authority.
  • File a charge with a government agency. You may be able to file a charge with a government agency that handles employment discrimination cases. For example, this could involve filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Although Georgia has no state agency that enforces wage and hour laws, you can contact the Atlanta District Office of the U.S. Department of Labor.
  • Finally, seek legal advice. Consult with an employment lawyer who focuses on wage discrimination cases. The attorneys at Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP in Atlanta can provide guidance on the specific laws applicable in Georgia and help you understand your legal options. Wage discrimination laws vary, and your steps will depend on your specific circumstances and Georgia’s legal framework.

At Buckley Bala Wilson Mew LLP, we handle wage and hour collective and class action lawsuits for employees who have been denied fair wages based on gender, race, ethnicity, age, disability, or other protected characteristics. If you believe you are a victim of wage discrimination in Georgia, call our Atlanta employment law attorneys or fill out our contact form today.