The EEOC issued new resource documents today in connection with its White House United State of Women Summit. The EEOC issued the following:
- Equal Pay and the EEOC’s Proposal to Collect Pay Data
- Legal Rights for Pregnant Workers under Federal Law
- Helping Patients Deal with Pregnancy-Related Conditions and Restrictions at Work
As with its earlier ADA guidance, the above “resource documents” are simply new webpages providing guidance for the above topics. For example, the EEOC’s proposal to collect pay data is not new, I blogged about it earlier. However, the new guidance notes that, following the first public comment period regarding the proposal, it will submit additional revisions and revised proposal for a second comment period this summer, 2016.
In short, the guidance reinforces that men and women must be paid equal wages if they perform the substantially same work, in the same workplace, under the Equal Pay Act (the picture above is President John F. Kennedy signing the Act into law in 1963). “Wages” includes pay, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing, bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, and other forms of compensation.
What About Minnesota’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Law?!
Minnesota also has its own Equal Pay for Equal Work Law, Minn. Stat. 181.66 – .71. Minnesota requires that employers (1 or more employees) similarly cannot discriminate against employee’s wages based on sex. The exception is public employers and employers that make payments based on a seniority system, merit system, piece rate system, or other differential based on any other factor other than sex. Naturally, employers may not retaliate against an employee for making a complaint under this law.
What are the penalties for violating Minnesota’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Law? You don’t want to find out. An employee can sue the employer in court for the amount of unpaid wages for the previous year, plus an equal amount as liquidated damages, plus attorneys’ fees. Such an action may be brought by one employee or more collectively. This will add up much quicker than you would think. To put it into perspective, in Ewald v. Royal Norwegian Embassy, a single plaintiff was awarded $170,594 in lost wages and $100,000 in emotional distress. The court then awarded the plaintiff’s attorneys $1.98 million – yes, that’s $1,983,692.66 ($1.7M in attorney’s fees and $209,973.61 in costs), as well as prejudgment interest on Plaintiff’s damages in the amount of $114,267.31. Thus, employers would be wise to internally audit their pay practices, at least annually, to ensure that pay ranges are consistent across the board within a certain position so you don’t find yourself in Norway’s boots.