As readers of this blog know, pay equity laws and regulations are expanding rapidly in the U.S. at both the federal and local level, as well as internationally. And while regulatory compliance is critical and remains an area to watch (and we’ll keep covering it for you here), employers can take a short breath of relief after a recent victory in one of the key proving grounds for equal pay claims—class and collective action litigation.
On March 29, 2019, in Ahad v. Board of Trustees of Southern Illinois University, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois decertified an equal pay collective action brought by a group of female physicians. Although the plaintiff alleged that she and other female physicians were paid less than male comparators for equal or similar work under the same compensation plan, Judge Sue E. Myerscough concluded that the opt-in members of the collective action had widely varying practices, duties, and compensation structures that would require many individualized inquiries, making the case inappropriate for treatment as a collective action.
The Fourth Circuit recently issued a decision discussing whether a university professor established pay-related claims under the Equal Pay Act and Title VII. This case has important implications for professional occupations where complainants seek to compare themselves to their colleagues for purposes of alleging pay discrimination.
Zoe Spencer, a sociology professor at Virginia State University (“VSU”), sued her employer for allegedly paying her less than two male professors because she is a woman. The district court granted summary judgment, and plaintiff appealed to the Fourth Circuit. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court’s decision because (1) plaintiff failed to present evidence that creates a genuine issue of material fact that the two male professors are appropriate comparators; and (2) in any event, unrebutted evidence shows that the VSU based the two male professors’ higher pay on their prior service as VSU administrators, not their sex.
On April 12th, Maine joins a growing list of jurisdictions, including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New York City (as well as other cities within New York) Oregon, Puerto Rico, and Vermont, that restrict private employers from obtaining salary history information from job candidates and applicants. Within the Northeast region, only Rhode Island and New Hampshire have yet to enact comparable regulations in the public or private sectors, with a bill, HB 221, presently pending before the New Hampshire legislature. READ MORE
The world of professional sports has long grappled with criticism of the stark pay differences between male and female athletes – think Billie Jean King’s “equal pay for equal play” push. A recent case brought by twenty-eight players on the United States Women’s National Soccer team (WNT) against the U.S. Soccer Federation (USSF) launched the issue back to the forefront of the pay equity arena earlier this month. READ MORE
While many states across the U.S. continue to develop new equal pay laws, it is also important for global companies to be aware of equal pay laws abroad. Countries far and wide including the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Belgium, Iceland and South Africa have instituted various forms of laws addressing pay equity issue. While these laws have varying requirements, we look at Australia as an example of the global picture. READ MORE
2019 is not even two months old and already there are significant developments in equal pay legislation. As we explained recently, there is proposed federal legislation that reignites the battle to pass the “Paycheck Fairness Act.” And now states are getting in on the action with a flurry of legislative activity around pay equity issues – particularly among legislatures that saw a change in party control as a result of the November elections. In fact, a number of states have introduced a variety of pay equity proposals, making clear that salary history bans and wage discussion protections are here to stay. Proposed new legislation also looks to refine the bona fide factors that employers may consider in setting pay, as well as remedies available under the pay laws. READ MORE
For the last two decades, Congressional Democrats have attempted to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. Beginning with the 105th Congress in 1997-98, several legislators have introduced versions of the act, including then-Senator Hillary Clinton in 2005. Following their newly won majority in the House of Representatives, Democratic lawmakers recently re-introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act on January 30, 2019. The proposed bill, H.R. 7, was introduced by Representative Rosa DeLauro (D) and appears to have considerable Congressional support. Notably, cosponsors of H.R. 7 include every Democratic member of the House of Representatives and forty-five Senators. READ MORE
Equality between men and women has been declared in France a “great national cause” of Emmanuel Macron’s Presidency in the wake of the #MeToo movement.
In March 2018, the French government unveiled an action plan for gender equality in the workplace consisting of ten measures aiming at reducing the gender pay gap and five measures to fight sexual and gender based violence. READ MORE
On January 1, 2019 at the stroke of midnight, Hawaii joined a growing list of states and municipalities to ban prospective employers from asking applicants about their prior salary history. As we have previously reported, several other jurisdictions have already passed similar laws that place restrictions on salary history during the application process, including California, New York City, Westchester, and Suffolk County, New York. READ MORE
Echoing an increasingly familiar refrain, another district court has declined to certify a class of women bringing pay equity claims on the basis that they did not present a common question capable of producing a common answer to “the crucial question why was I disfavored.” Relying largely upon Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, the court found certification inappropriate because the putative class members were subject to countless independent decisions involving the judgment and discretion of individual managers. The case also serves as another reminder that courts (including California state courts) will not accept an overly simplistic analysis comparing broad job categories or titles, but will continue to look at actual business practices and job responsibilities to ensure comparators are “similarly situated” so a meaningful pay comparison can be made. READ MORE