Emily’s List and Open Culture are rerunning a public service announcement dating from 1964. Yes, the Equal Pay Act is 50 years old. But while some progress has been made, the underpayment of female employees continues.
If Batgirl were to have brought her case against Batman, for paying her less than Robin, Batman would counter that (1) he has too few employees to be covered by the law, (2) Robin has different responsibilities than Batgirl, so it’s okay to pay him less. Unfortunately, this second exception has swallowed up many equal pay claims. Once a job is not a carbon copy of someone else’s, which usually happens at higher levels of responsibility, employers can easily manufacture an argument about how the job duties are not actually similar. Yes, they’re both vice presidents, responsible for 15 direct reports, but he sometimes has to meet with vendors while she, (who is not the purchasing director) does not.
This year has seen quite a push for openness in employees’ discussion of their rates of pay. While squelching such discussions already violates the National Labor Relations Act, not many people were aware of that. The new proposed legislation at national and state levels, even if it does not pass, might lead to a new era of knowledge, which can lead to change.