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Can one co-worker make more than another for doing the same job?

The general principle of equal pay for equal work is embedded in our culture. Most of us feel like people with the same work responsibilities, hours, job requirements and the like should receive the same compensation.

But what happens when compensation packages differ significantly between two people with the same qualifications doing the same job? When two colleagues have significantly different compensation packages, can one of them sue the employer?

Complicated Questions

There are no easy answers to those questions. A recent article by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) discusses disparate pay for the same work performed by different people.

According to the article, different pay is not necessarily illegal. There are numerous reasons why different pay is acceptable. One employee could have more experience or more pertinent certification. Even seniority in a specific company does not necessarily mean the employee with seniority should get more pay, especially if the other employee has substantial experience with another company in a similar position.

Protecting Your Rights as an Employer

Although employers have significant latitude when it comes to disparate pay, employees still have rights. Employees in the situation where a colleague is making more for the same work often consider the possibility of talking with an attorney about a possible legal claim. Members of protected classes (based on religious affiliation, age, gender, sexual orientation and other categories), you seek a discrimination claim.

Although employers are not guaranteed exactly equal pay and there are many reasons why employers could offer different compensation packages, employers still need to be careful about compliance issues (which can vary by jurisdiction) and potential exposure to legal action.

As an employer, it is critical to work with an experienced employment lawyer to protect your business's interests and stay clear of potential problems in this area.

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