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According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employment discrimination based on sex, color, race, religion, and national origin is prohibited. Discrimination against an employee or potential employee based on their gender with regard to hiring, promoting or terminating the employee is unlawful. In addition, Title VII prohibits employment decisions ‘based on stereotypes and assumptions about abilities, traits, or the performance of individuals on the basis of sex’.
Women, with their history of being considered the inferior sex, have received lower wages than their male counterparts for equal labor. The idea of men being paid more than women was widely accepted in the past, as men were considered the primary wage earners and breadwinners for the family. This widespread conclusion changed with the John F. Kennedy administration. The Equal Pay Act (EPA) was established on June 11, 1963. The act guaranteed women pay equal to men for equivalent labor. EPA states:
‘No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions, except where such payment is made pursuant to (i) a seniority system; (ii) a merit system; (iii) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (iv) a differential based on any other factor other than sex.’
Recently, in October 2005, a case of gender discrimination was presented to the US Court of Appeals by Ledbetter against Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Inc in Alabama. Lilly Ledbetter worked for Goodyear Tire Company from 1979 to 1998. In 1998, Ledbetter realized she had possibly been receiving lesser pay due to sexual discrimination. She filed a questionnaire with the EEOC and after retirement, sued under the EPA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Ledbetter claimed that she received poor performance evaluations from her supervisors and received no pay increase during 1996-1998 which was in sharp contrast to her male counterparts. Goodyear denied the claim stating that appraisals were made solely based on employee performance. The case was decided in May 2007 in the favor of Goodyear on the basis that Ledbetter had not filed the claim at the right time. According to Doppelt (2006), it was a perfect example of the ‘insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination’.
The reasons for the wage gap between men and women are chiefly inherent. In the past, women were considered the inferior sex and could not be trusted to perform difficult labor or produce good quality work. Stereotypical assumptions about women have led to women suffering from severe form of discrimination. Pregnancy and childcare are assumed to make a woman less competitive and reliable in other arenas such as work. The underlying stereotype behind gender discrimination is that women are not capable and competent. This has led to severe wage gaps between the two genders.
Over the years, women have seen the efforts to close the wage gap bear fruit, but equality has yet to be reached. In 1963, a woman earned a measly 58 cents for every dollar a man earned. This situation improved in 2005 when women earned 77 cents. This wage gap between genders is spread across all occupations. “The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2005 female physicians and surgeons earned 60.9% of the median weekly wages of male physicians, and women in sales occupations earned just 63.4% of men’s wages in equivalent positions.” (National Women’s Law Center, 2007).
Though the situation is improving, more dedicated efforts need to be made to change the situation. Though the EPA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 have protected many in recent years, people like Ledbetter fail to obtain justice. The need is for the basic stereotypical mindset to be changed and for women to be considered equally competent and deserving of remuneration as men.
Doppelt, Jack. “Ledbetter, Lilly v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.” Medill Journalism. 2006. Northwestern University. 2007. Web.
National Women’s Law Center. “The Wage Gap.” Infoplease. 2007. Pearson Education Inc. 2007. Web.