How To Identify Pay Discrimination in the Workplace

How To Identify Pay Discrimination in the Workplace

In an ideal world, every employee would receive a livable wage and fair compensation for their hard work. However, biases and greed prevent this from becoming a reality, making it hard for many employees to afford day-to-day living. The Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibit pay discrimination, but they can’t prevent all instances. These acts can only hold employers accountable. In fact, these laws compel certain employers to try and hide their discriminatory acts—so what can you do?

To help put an end to wage inequality, let’s review how to identify pay discrimination in the workplace.

Wage Discrimination vs. Unfair Wages

Before we can truly understand how to identify pay discrimination, we have to understand what it is and isn’t. Wage discrimination occurs when an employer docks your pay, lowers your wages, or underpays you for a discriminatory reason. They may have certain prejudices against your gender, sexuality, race, ethnicity, color, religion, age, disability, or pregnancy status. All of these are protected characteristics, meaning it is illegal to discriminate against you simply because you possess one of these traits. However, even if your employer is underpaying you for nondiscriminatory reasons, this is known as unfair wages and is still illegal.

You Belong to a Protected Class

Every human has a protected characteristic and therefore is part of a protected class. However, some protected classes are more vulnerable to discrimination than others and may need to stay on high alert. For example, women are much more likely to be underpaid than their male coworkers, hence the gender pay gap. While it is still illegal to discriminate against a man simply because of their sex, it is much less likely to occur.

Additionally, the more protected classes someone belongs to, the more unique their experience with discrimination may be, which often makes a person more vulnerable to discrimination. This is known as intersectionality. For example, while women are often paid less than men, women of color (WOC) are often paid even less than White women. If you’re unsure whether you’re experiencing pay discrimination, keeping these factors in mind is important.

Other People in the Same Protected Class Have Similar Complaints

In general, knowing when you’re being underpaid is easy. Suddenly, your pay stubs aren’t coming back the same, or your employer isn’t paying you what was agreed upon in the job description. However, the difficult part is determining whether or not your experience is due to discrimination, as an employer won’t outright tell you their prejudice.

First, look at other employees that fall under the same or similar protected classes. Do they have similar complaints? Are they also underpaid? If so, it is highly likely that your situation is not a coincidence.

Let’s take a look at a scenario. Paul is a cisgender, African American man who just started his job. He notices he’s not getting paid the agreed-upon amount in his contract. He starts asking around, and as it turns out, other employees who happen to be people of color (POC) have the same complaints. On the other hand, their White coworkers don’t seem to be having these issues. It doesn’t matter if these employees don’t fall under the exact same protected classes—what’s important to note in this scenario is that a specific pattern exists.

Other Jobs Offer Higher Pay

The scenario above may have once been commonplace, but law and societal progression has fortunately made these extreme scenarios less and less common. However, this does mean that pinpointing pay discrimination is a little harder. While we review a few other signs of pay discrimination, keep in mind that there must be some bias or prejudice at play for the action to be discriminatory.

A good way to tell whether your employer is discriminating against you is to take a look at similar job listings. Are similar job titles receiving more pay than you? Do they receive more benefits? Do they have diverse employees that get fair treatment from their employers while you don’t? True, the grass sometimes may seem greener on the other side, but if you notice a consistent pattern of equitable treatment from different employers, it’s likely much more than coincidence.

Your Employer Consistently Underpays You

You should take every instance of underpayment seriously, but an employer can make a mistake here and there. Your employer should take action to correct the instances promptly, but if you notice they keep underpaying you, it’s time to keep an eye out. Most employees spend their entire careers never having an issue with being underpaid—let alone once or twice in the same company. A pattern of underpayment may be a sign of unprofessionalism or something much more sinister. How can you tell the difference?

Remember to look for patterns in your employer’s behavior, and don’t be afraid to ask other coworkers. You don’t have to explicitly ask them how much they’re being paid, but you have a right to discuss your wages with other employees. You may be surprised to find you’re not simply the odd one out.

Their Excuses Are Poor or Inconsistent

Let’s say other employees don’t seem to have the same complaints, and maybe you’ve only been underpaid once or twice. This doesn’t automatically mean that what you’re experiencing isn’t pay discrimination. For example, say you just found out that you’re pregnant, and you’re the first employee in your small business to become pregnant. Suddenly, your next paycheck is less than your last. Employers often treat pregnant people unfairly—usually because they feel a pregnant worker can’t do as much and may view them as a burden.

Almost 100 percent of the time, you can reveal a discriminatory act with simple questioning. It may feel intimidating to bring this up with your employer, but you also have the right to inquire about your wages. Most employers, if not all, are extremely careful about paying their employees correctly for fear of litigation. And if they do make a mistake, it’s likely for a very understandable reason. If you question your employer about being underpaid, and their reasoning is poor or doesn’t make sense logically, take it as a sign.

Now that you know how to identify pay discrimination in the workplace, it’s time to take a hard look at the situation. If you believe you’re a victim of pay discrimination, contact the Law Firm of Tamara N. Holder today. Our equal pay attorneys are dedicated to uprooting pay discrimination and holding employers accountable. You can trust us to handle your case with the care, respect, and attention it deserves.

How To Identify Pay Discrimination in the Workplace

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