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What You Should Know: Questions and Answers About the Equal Pay Act


EEOC enforces the Equal Pay Act (EPA). The EPA prohibits pay discrimination based on sex, but it is limited to pay discrimination between employees who are performing the same job at the same location.

1. Do women and men have to be performing identical jobs for the EPA to apply?

No. The EPA does not require that the jobs be identical. The following requirements apply:

  • a significant portion of the job tasks are the same for the positions being compared;
  • the two jobs involve similar levels of skill, which means similar levels of experience, ability, education, and training;
  • the two jobs involve similar levels of mental and physical exertion;
  • the two jobs involve similar levels of responsibility or accountability; and
  • the two jobs are performed under similar working conditions.

2. Do the two individuals have to be working in the same place?

Generally, yes. However, workers at different worksites sometimes may be compared if the same managers oversee the operations of both locations and workers frequently transfer between the two locations.

3. If I'm being paid less than someone of the opposite sex who is doing the same job as me at the same location, does that mean that my employer is violating the EPA?

Not necessarily. Under limited circumstances, an employer is permitted to pay someone of the opposite sex more, even though he or she is performing the same job. To justify the higher pay, the employer would have to show that the higher pay is based on one of the following:

  • a seniority system that rewards employees based on length of employment;
  • a merit system that rewards employees for exceptional job performance;
  • an incentive system that pays employees based on the quality of their work or the amount of work they perform; or
  • another factor related to job performance or business operations, such as paying a shift differential to workers on less popular shifts.

4. What can I do if I believe my employer has violated the EPA?

If you believe that your employer has violated the EPA, you can either file a charge with the EEOC or you can file a lawsuit in court. Under the EPA, you are generally required to file your lawsuit within two years of when you received the discriminatory pay. You should be aware that filing a charge with the EEOC does not extend your two-year time frame for filing an EPA lawsuit.

5. Do other laws also prohibit pay discrimination?

Yes, all of the laws enforced by the EEOC prohibit pay discrimination. Pay discrimination based on sex is also prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII prohibits discrimination in compensation and other terms and conditions of employment, so it is broader than the EPA. Title VII also prohibits discrimination in compensation or other aspects of employment based on race, color, religion, or national origin. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act prohibit discrimination in compensation or other aspects of employment based on age (40 or over), disability, or genetic information.

6. Where can I find more information about pay discrimination?

Several documents on EEOC's website provide background information on the EPA and other EEO laws prohibiting pay discrimination: