Alas, I am not expecting my phone to start ringing off the hook. But the week of “Equal Pay Day” is as good a time as any for contractors to kick the tires on their pay practices to ensure observed pay disparities are supported by legitimate differentiators.
Perhaps no employment statistic is bandied about so frequently in politics and the press than the “gender pay gap” whereby women are purported to earn only 78 cents for every dollar earned by men. With April 4 having been “Equal Pay Day,” much digital ink was getting spilled concerning female workers allegedly earning less than their male “counterparts.” Alas (again), most but not all of the click-bait tends to be hopelessly innumerate, failing to capture or account for legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for observed differences in the aggregate data from which the 78% figure is derived.
Despite the political hand-wringing, the law surrounding individual pay discrimination is robust and well delineated. Indeed, in addition to pay discrimination being actionable under Title VII, since 1963 the federal Equal Pay Act (“EPA”) has required that men and women in the same workplace be given equal pay for equal work. All forms of pay are covered including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, allowances and reimbursement for travel expenses, and benefits. The jobs need not be identical in every respect, but they must be “substantially equal.” Rather than relying upon particular job titles, a claimant must show that she and her male counterpart performed substantially equal work in terms of skill, effort, and responsibility. A job will be considered unequal, despite having the same general core responsibilities, if the more highly paid job involves additional tasks which (1) require extra effort, (2) consume a significant amount of the time, and (3) are of an economic value commensurate with the pay differential.
Federal contractors subject to EO 11246 are expected to routinely evaluate their compensation systems to ensure that they are not resulting in discriminatory outcomes. The applicable regulations require that such “self-audits” assess whether race or gender-based compensation disparities exist, that the audits occur periodically, and that results be reported internally to management. While the OFCCP does not require a particular methodology, its own compliance officers are generally directed to review individual data, group data into pay grades or job groups, and conduct summary analyses. The CO is also to assess quantitative factors such as the size of any overall average pay differences based on race (minority vs. non-minority) and gender (female vs. male), the number of job groups where average pay differences exceed a certain threshold, or the number of employees negatively affected within job groups.
In addition to the individualized EPA factors mentioned above, data such as particular skill or certifications; education; work experience; the position, level, or function; tenure in a position; performance ratings; and other compensation-related inputs should be considered. For smaller contractors, simple Excel “table and sort” analyses may be sufficient. For more complex employers, more sophisticated statistical analyses, such as multiple regression, may be appropriate and more valuable.
If contractors are not already routinely performing these sorts of analyses (preferably in conjunction with counsel for privilege purposes), they should. Again, it’s required by EO 11246; and innumeracy around the “wage gap” notwithstanding, pay discrimination can and does occur. It is far cheaper to identify and remedy unexplained disparities without the involvement of the DOL or the courts.
About the Author:
David Warner is a seasoned legal counselor with extensive experience in the resolution and litigation of complex employment and business disputes. His practice is focused on the government contractor, nonprofit, and hospitality industries. David leads Centre’s audit, investigation, and litigation practices.
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