The Equal Pay Act
Passed into law in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy, the Equal Pay Act ("EPA") made it illegal to pay different wage rates, based on gender, for equal work in jobs in which the effort, skill and responsibility are equal and performed under working conditions that are similar.
The EPA is one of the shortest statutes on record, with expansive coverage. Unlike Title VII claims, which require the plaintiff to file a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment opportunity Commission ("EEOC") as a prerequisite to bring a lawsuit, a plaintiff does not have to file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC before pursuing an EPA claim.
Title VII also prohibits compensation discrimination on the basis of sex. Under Title VII there is no requirement that the job the claimant holds is a position that is more or less equal to that of a person of the opposite sex, who is paid more. In addition, there is no requirement that the claimant work in the same establishment.
The Fair Pay Act
On January 29, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Fair Pay Act. Among other things, the Fair Pay Act prohibits wage discrimination for work in "equivalent jobs" based on national origin, race or sex. An equivalent job is one in which even if the jobs are dissimilar, the composite of responsibility, effort, skill and working conditions are equivalent in value. The Act is a natural extension of the 1963 Equal Pay Act, which is limited to sex-based discrimination in the same jobs. Where enforcement is concerned, class action lawsuits can be filed under the Fair Pay Act. Those that are successful could lead to compensatory and punitive damages.