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Equal Pay Act of 1963


The Equal Pay Act requires that men and women be given equal pay for equal work in the same establishment. The jobs need not be identical, but they must be substantially equal. It is job content, not job titles, that determines whether jobs are substantially equal. Specifically, the EPA provides that employer may not pay unequal wages to men and women who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility, and that are performed under similar working conditions within the same establishment. The components of each are defined as follows:

Skill: Skill is measured by factors such as the experience, ability, education and training required to perform the job. The key issue is what skills are required for the job, not what skills the individual employees may have. For example, two bookkeeping jobs could be considered equal under the EPA even if one of the job holders has a master’s degree in physics, since that degree would not be required for the job.

Effort: The amount of physical or mental exertion needed to perform the job.

Responsibility: The degree of accountability required in performing the job.

Working Conditions: This encompasses two factors: (1) physical surroundings, such as temperature, fumes and ventilation; and (2) hazards.

Establishment: The prohibition against compensation discrimination under the EPA applies only to jobs within an establishment. An establishment is a distinct physical place of business rather than an entire business or enterprise consisting of several places of business. However, in some circumstances, physically separate places of business should be treated as one establishment. For example, if a central administrative unit hires employees, sets their compensation and assigns them to work locations, the separate work sites can be considered part of one establishment.

Pay differentials are permitted when they are based on seniority, merit, quantity or quality of production, or a factor other than sex. These are known as “affirmative defenses,” and it is the employer’s burden to prove that they apply.

In correcting a pay differential, no employee’s pay may be reduced. Instead, the pay of the lower-paid employee(s) must be increased.