Moving equal pay forward

On average, men make more than women, and the gap is even wider for people of color.

Even though the federal Equal Pay Act is more than 50 years old, there still are substantial earnings differences across the country.

At Burnette Shutt & McDaniel, we are committed to fighting to make that right. Our employment lawyers can help those whose paychecks are smaller because of who they are battle for financial equality.

The federal Equal Pay Act dates to 1963. It’s part of the federal Fair Labor and Standards Act, though recent changes have come under the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The Equal Pay Act involves more than paying men and women, minorities and whites the same for the same job. It also requires equal pay for jobs requiring equal skill and responsibility. The discrimination doesn’t have to be deliberate for it to be illegal either.

That doesn’t mean that every pay gap is illegal. It’s OK to pay workers more based on merit, education or seniority.

Equal pay actions

Most fair pay cases begin with a complaint to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Though EEOC deadlines typically are tight for complaints – 180 days after the incident. In the case of fair pay, the deadline resets with every new unequal paycheck issued thanks to the 2009 Lilly Leadbetter Fair Pay Act that President Obama signed into law.

The burden of proof is on the employee making the complaint. That’s why it’s important to have the help of an experienced employment law attorney with the skills and legal knowledge to know what it takes to meet this burden of proof.

In South Carolina, the federal system is about the only option. Though the South Carolina Human Affairs Law prohibits discrimination based on religion, color, sex, age, national origin or disability, it does not specifically cover fair pay. Unfortunately, this means that workers at smaller businesses or those not involved in interstate commerce are not protected.