The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was an amendment to the Fair Labor Standard Act, by the United States Congress, with the sole aim of abolishing differences in wages based on sex. The Act, which was passed to Federal Law, is in force across the larger United States.
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The history of the Equal Pay Act date back to the period of World War II. This period experienced an increase in the number of women taking up jobs in the war-related industries. In 1942, the National War Labor Board requested employers to make voluntary adjustments and equalize salary rates paid to women to make them favorable and comparable to men’s salary for similar works.
This request went unheeded by employers and to make the matter worse, most women were made to resign from their positions to pave way for men returning from World War II. It is important that before 1962, job advertisement and listing were done separately, for women and men. High-level jobs with matching high salaries were advertised exclusively for men. In other instances, a particular job could be advertised listing the expected pay for a woman, different from that of a man.
In the period between 1950 and 1960, a woman with a full-time job earned between 60-63 cents for every dollar his male counterpart earned in the same job under similar conditions and skills. 10th June 1963, witnessed the signing into law of the Equal Pay Act which became effective on 11th June 1964. The law made it illegal for women to be paid salaries that were lower than men based on sex. The Act gave provision for different pay based on merit, seniority, quantity or quality of the work, and any other considerations that merit a pay difference except gender.
The Act read in part: “To prohibit discrimination on account of sex in the payment of wages by employers engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce……. 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……….” (Equal Pay Act, Section 3, d1)
In passing the Bill into law, the congress found that different wage payment based on gender was lowering the standards of living of most workers thus diminishing their efficiency. Another flaw with wage difference based on gender was that it prevented maximum utilization of skills and resources and at the same time caused a lot of labor disputes which directly affected and burdened the production and commerce in general which in turn affected the flow of goods and services.
The 1963 Equal Pay Act requires that women and men be given equal pay for equal work, done at the same place of work. In this case, the job does not necessarily have to be identical but must be considered equal. In determining whether the jobs are equal, what counts is the contents of the job not necessarily the title of the job. The act provides that jobs that require equal effort, equal responsibility, and equal skills, carried out in similar conditions within the same organization be paid equally.
A person’s ability, training, education, and experience are used to determine whether he or she has the right skills to perform the job. What is most important in this aspect is the determination of the skills required to perform a certain job, but not the skills that an individual has.
Effort refers to mental or physical exertion required to perform a specific job. In a production line, some use more physical or mental force than others, it is important for employers to consider such cases and if necessary pay the person using more physical or mental effort regardless of whether it is a man or woman doing the job.
Some work requires a high degree of accountability to perform. A purchasing officer determining what the production line need has more responsibility than other workers on the production line. In such instances, the person performing such a task may be paid higher pay than another worker, regardless of the person’s gender.
The Act provides that for a job to be considered equal, the working conditions have to be similar. The conditions, in this case, refers to all hazards associated with the work and the physical conditions of the surrounding, including ventilation, temperatures, and fumes that might be emitted within a working area.
The word establishment is used in clarifying the organization setting. For work to be considered equal, it has to be performed within the same establishment. In this case, the establishment means a specific location within a business or organization, rather than the entire organization or business. An organization might consist of a production line situated away from another department like the sales department. In such instances, it is important to consider whether the two locations can be considered to be the same establishment or two different establishments, in deciding the pay.
Equal Pay Act was a law targeting the economic inequality accorded to women across the United States. The Equal Pay Act made it illegal for any employer to pay women lower pay than their men counterparts working on the same job, based on gender. On signing the bill into law, United States President John F. Kennedy, illustrated clearly that the bill was targeting raising the working standards of women. Part of his speech read “Our economy today depends upon women in the labor force. One out of three workers is a woman. Today, there are almost 25 million women employed, and their number is rising faster than the number of men in the labor force. It is extremely important that adequate provision be made for reasonable levels of income to them, for the care of the children which they must leave at home or in school, and for protection of the family unit” (Source:www.presidency.ucsb.edu)
“……………..Where the mother is the sole support of the family, she often must face the hard choice of either accepting public assistance or taking a position at a pay rate which averages less than two-thirds of the pay rate for men.” From his speech, it is clear the law was enacted in recognition of injustices women face in the workplace and the role they play in the economy of the United States.
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The Equal Pay Act has enabled women to realize significant gains as far as the wage is considered. The wage gap has narrowed considerably from 59 percent in 1963 to 84 percent as of 2006. The wage gap difference translates to over US $ 200 billion lost by women in annual earning. The wage gap mostly affects women of Latino and African American origins who have a 56 and 68 percent wage difference respectively compared to their male counterparts.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 greatly affected employers who before the enactment of the law were paying low wages to women. For the employers to be able to meet the law requirements, they had to adjust to accommodate higher wages for women resulting in an unplanned increase in the cost of operations. The Act further stressed that “any amounts owing to any employee which have been withheld in violation of this subsection shall be deemed to be unpaid minimum wages or unpaid overtime compensation under this Act” (Equal Pay Act, Section 3, d3) Such compensations resulting from the enactment of the Equal Pay Act further compelled the employers to clear all outstanding salaries owed to employees.
Labor unions and organizations were also affected by the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Part of the act reads “No labor organization, or its agents, representing employees of an employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall cause or attempt to cause such an employer to discriminate against an employee in violation……” (Equal Pay Act, Section 3, d2) as such, labor representative was put on the spotlight in regards to the wage gap and the law expected them to represent and safeguard the interest of all workers as far as wage differences are concerned.
Recent development as far as the issue of the Equal Pay Act is the recent introduction of the Paycheck Fairness Act, by Senator Hillary Clinton. The act was introduced on 20th April 2005 with the sole aim of strengthening and the enforcement of Equal Pay Act. The Act seeks to close all loopholes that exist and weakens Equal Pay Act.
When enacted, Paycheck Fairness Act will allow complainants to recover all compensations, it will also allow women to have a lawsuit against an employer in-group rather than the way it has done today on an individual basis, and also improve data collection on wages by Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It is expected that if congress passes the resolutions, the wage gap will be eliminated within the next few years. The Paycheck Fairness Act has provisions and policy proposals that seek to address all problems resulting from lower wages in those occupations dominated by women
Expanding workforce unions is also seen as an effective tool in closing the wage gap that still exists. It is important to know that working women who are already unionized earn more than 33 percent than their counterparts who are not represented by unions. As such, Unions can be used as a vehicle to close the wage gap.
1963, Equal Pay Act was a United States law that was passed to prohibit discrimination on wage payment based on gender. In passing the Act to Law, the US Congress was seeking to recognize the contribution made by women in the Economy building.
Women have made considerable gains since the Law came into force in 1964, with the wage gap narrowing from 59 percent in 1963 to 84 percent in 2006. There is a need to strengthen and enforce the law consistently if the wage gap is to be closed. The recent introduction of the Paycheck Fairness Act is one way that seeks to strengthen the Equal Pay Act as the Act seeks to close all loopholes that exist in the Equal Pay Act. Unionization is also seen as an effective tool in the enforcement of the Equal Pay Act.
The Equal Pay of 1963, Web.
Barbara Kate Repa (2005) Your Rights in the Workplace, Nolo Publishers, United States.