Whether you are paid a salary or on an hourly basis, it is against the law for your employer to pay you less on the basis of sex, race, disability, or age. Unfortunately, wage discrimination still exists, primarily between men and women. Even in progressive states like Maryland, studies have shown that women make less than men for doing substantially the same work.
If you suspect that you are a victim of wage discrimination, a Maryland employment attorney can help you understand your rights and, ultimately, get the compensation you deserve.
Your Rights Under Federal and Maryland State Law
The Equal Pay Act is a federal law that was passed in 1963 as an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act. It is the principal law that prohibits employers from paying one employee less than another employee for “substantially equal” work.
In 2016, Maryland passed the “Equal Pay for Equal Work” law. In addition to prohibiting wage discrimination, it also provided the following protections for Maryland workers:
- It prohibited employers from taking any adverse action against employees for inquiring about or discussing their compensation or the compensation of another employee. This includes requiring employees to sign waivers or other documents agreeing to not discuss compensation.
- It prohibited employers from “mommy tracking” – providing less favorable employment opportunities based on sex or gender identity.
While the protections provided by these laws are clear, proving wage discrimination can be complicated. A Maryland employment attorney can review your case and determine whether you have a claim.
Understanding Equal Work
In order to pursue a wage discrimination claim, you have to prove that you are being paid less to do substantially equal work as another employee who is being paid more. In general, courts will look to the duties performed by the employees in determining whether there is wage discrimination – the job titles or job descriptions do not matter. Employees will be considered to be engaged in equal work if they require substantially equal levels of effort, skill, and responsibility and are performed under similar conditions. By contrast, another employee who performs many of the same duties as you plus some additional duties may not be considered equal work.
Obviously, there is a lot of room for interpretation in determining whether you are engaged in equal work. An experienced Maryland employment attorney will be able to identify whether you may be a victim of wage discrimination.
What is Equal Pay?
Under the law, you are entitled to an equal pay rate as someone else doing the same job. In addition, you are entitled to the same benefits –
- Retirement benefits
- Health insurance
That said, equal pay does not necessarily mean that your total compensation must be the same. If employees are compensated based on their performance, disparate pay may not mean that there is wage discrimination. For example, if you are paid a base salary plus commissions, an employee with lower sales is not a victim of wage discrimination if they are paid the same pay rate as an employee with higher sales and therefore a higher total compensation.
What to Do if You Think You’re a Victim of Wage Discrimination
No matter the circumstances, challenging your employer can be intimidating, especially if you are worried that you may lose your job. However, it’s important to remember that retaliation in response to a complaint is also illegal. Here are some steps you can take that can help you build your case:
- Document your case. Keep detailed notes as to how and when you learned that you are being underpaid. Record the names of the people you spoke with and the dates you talked with them.
- Notify your employer. You should begin by speaking with someone in management or human resources, explaining that you believe you are the victim of wage discrimination. However, you should follow up with a formal, written complaint. Keep a copy of your complaint for your own records, and be sure to update your notes to include the date you spoke with your employer and the date you filed your complaint.
- Speak with a Maryland employment attorney. An attorney with experience in handling equal pay cases can provide you with critical guidance and valuable insights in pursuing your claim. They can also help you gather the evidence you need to build your case.
Contact Maryland Employment Attorney J.W. Stafford
Wage discrimination remains an unfortunate reality for many workers. Maryland employment attorney J.W. Stafford can help you navigate the complexities of the claim process so that you can get the compensation you deserve. To schedule a confidential consultation, contact us today at (410) 514-6099.