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Serrins & Associates LLC Employment Law Blog

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Today is #EqualPayDay – What Is The “Wage Gap” and How Do We End It?

For the last few years, activists and employment experts have publicized the date that we hit “Equal Pay Day” in America – the date that women would have to work through from the previous year, to make the same amount their male colleagues did. This year, the “holiday” – if you want to call it that – falls on April 2. In other words, women would have needed to work until April 2, 2019, to make what their male coworkers did in 2018. This is actually an improvement, however slight – last year, Equal Pay Day was calculated to fall on April 10.

How bad is the current wage gap? Bad. The latest statistics indicate that women on average make 79 cents for every dollar made by a man. For women of color, the picture is even worse – black and Latina women earn around 50 cents for every dollar earned by a man. For them, Equal Pay Day doesn’t happen until mid-year. The pay gap spans professions and salaries – women with MBAs, for example, are calculated to earn approximately 74 cents for every dollar a male MBA holder earns.

Various factors contribute to the gender wage gap, which is partly what makes it so difficult to vanquish. While times have certainly changed, there is still pressure on many women to take time off from their career to care for children. Sure enough, once they are back at work, their male colleagues have all enjoyed a few years of raises while they are stuck at the same salary. In other industries, there is evidence that women are systemically devalued simply because of cultural bias – witness the tech and engineering industries and the lawsuits and complaints that have sprung up. Sometimes employers may, consciously or unconsciously, believe they can “get away” with paying a woman less, figuring that she won’t negotiate hard or will be content to let their lower pay go without complaint. The decline of labor unions, which demanded fair wages across the board for all workers, male and female, has also contributed to the pay gap.

It is, of course, illegal for an employer to pay a woman less than a man for the same job, simply because she’s a woman, and this is true both on the federal level and in New York City and State. But rarely is pay discrimination so simple or clean-cut. In fact, many women may not even know they are being underpaid – employers often discourage their workers from comparing salaries. (The movement to Share Your Salary seeks to undercut this practice.)

Things are moving in the right direction, if slowly. WalMart was hit with a lawsuit last month for engaging in massive pay discrimination, across stores and positions. Last year, Nike, Uber, and Google all faced headline-making claims of underpaying female employees. And the wage gap has shrunk in recent years, at least a little.

Are you a woman who thinks she is being paid less than her male counterparts? If so, there are a few things you can do. Speak to your coworkers and tell them your concerns, if you feel you can trust them – your first step is to learn if a pay disparity actually exists. Do some research and see what people with your level experience are typically paid in your industry. If you have a good relationship with your boss, you may wish to approach him or her with your concerns.

Sometimes, nothing short of a communication from a lawyer, or even a lawsuit, will get an employer to budge, or even admit there is a problem. That’s where employment lawyers come in. At Serrins & Associates, we have decades of experience helping workers fight back against unfair or discriminatory treatment by their employers. We are happy to provide you with a free phone consultation if you think you are the victim of wage discrimination. Give us a call or send us a message and set one up.

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