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Equal Pay Day: How Women Can Pursue Equitable Compensation in the Workplace

When is Equal Pay Day? This year, it’s March 14th, 2023. This national day of awareness highlights how far into the new year the average woman must work to earn the same amount as the average white man made last year. In 2023, it symbolizes that women must work fourteen and a half months to earn the same as men made in just twelve. 

The demand for equal wages has long been central to the battle for gender equality. While bills like the Civil Rights Act have made it illegal for employers to pay people differently based on race or gender, there are still significant gaps. Here’s what you should know about Equal Pay Day during Women’s History Month and what you can do if you believe you’re not being paid fairly for your work.

What Is Equal Pay Day?

Equal Pay Day (EPD) has been recognized annually for over 25 years. The day of awareness was first implemented by the federal National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE) in 1996 to highlight the significant wage disparities between genders. The NCPE determined that every year, it would use the previous year’s census information to calculate how many weeks of additional work the average woman would take to earn the same as the average man. Similarly, it declared that EPD would always fall on a Tuesday, symbolizing that women must work an extra one to two work days to earn what men do in just five. 

Originally, EPD always fell in April since, in the 90s, women’s wages were about 75% of men’s. Over the decades, it has moved back into March as the gap has slowly shrunk. However, there is still a long way to go. Factors like gender and racial bias and unfair parental leave policies have made it difficult for many women to spend as much time in the workforce or reach the same heights as men. As such, Equal Pay Day remains an important reminder of the work toward equality that still needs to be done.

Wage Disparities Based on Gender, Race, and Identity

Since 1996, the NCPE has recognized that gender is far from the only factor causing the wage gap. Race and identity also play an unfortunate role in reducing women’s earnings over their lifetimes. That’s why the NCPE now recognizes multiple Equal Pay Days annually. March 14th is the EPD for the average woman compared to the average white man. Other days acknowledge larger gaps where gender and race combine to put people at a disadvantage compared to white men. These include:

  • Black Women: July 27th, 2023. Black women who work full-time, year-round, are paid just 67 cents for every dollar paid to non-Hispanic white men. 
  • Latinas: October 5th, 2023. Latina women working full time earn just 57 cents per dollar paid to white men.
  • Native Women: November 30th, 2023. Native women receive 57 cents per dollar paid to white men if they work full-time and just 51 cents per dollar if they work part-time or seasonally.
  • Mothers: August 15th, 2023. A continued societal expectation that women will leave the workforce to care for their children while men will support the family has translated into full-time working mothers earning just 74 cents per dollar that fathers make.
  • LGBTQ+: June 15th, 2023. While the LGBTQ+ community is too broad to develop a coherent average of their earnings, trans, gender-nonconforming, and non-heterosexual people, especially those of color, often struggle to receive the same opportunities as white cisgender men. This translates into a notable wage gap.

Identifying Inequitable Pay in the Workplace

The responsibility for demanding equal wages should not fall on the people who are struggling, but It often does. Employers benefit from being able to pay half of the workforce less. If your employer isn’t practicing equitable compensation, it will not likely fix the issue unprompted. 

That’s why it’s worthwhile to learn how to spot pay inequality in the workplace. The following tactics can help you identify if you’re being underpaid because of your gender:

  • Talk to your coworkers of all genders. The simplest way to spot unfair compensation practices is to talk to your coworkers. Talk with people of all races and genders. Ideally, everyone doing similar work will receive comparable wages, but this is often not the case. If you notice a trend of certain genders or races earning less than others, your employer may be violating your right to equal pay. 
  • Request access to compensation information under new pay transparency laws. States like California are beginning to implement pay transparency laws allowing employees to request information about their employers’ pay scales and compensation ranges for specific positions. If your employer is subject to one of these laws, you can request this information to get an accurate view of its overall pay practices. 
  • Beware employers who discourage open salary discussions. It is illegal to penalize someone for talking about their salary. If your employer bars the discussion of compensation, it is often because there are inequitable practices behind the scenes. If your company tries to discourage this kind of talk, digging more deeply into whether you’re being paid fairly is usually worthwhile. 

Pursuing Equitable Wages in Your Workplace

You deserve fair compensation. The continued existence of Equal Pay Day demonstrates that it’s all too likely that women are not receiving fair wages for their work. If you discover your employer has discriminatory compensation practices, your best course of action is to consult with a skilled equal pay attorney. The knowledgeable lawyers at the Law Offices of Todd M. Friedman understand the complexities surrounding fair pay laws. We are available to help you stand up to unfair compensation practices in California, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and around the country. Schedule your consultation today to discuss your situation and learn whether you have grounds for an equal pay lawsuit.

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