Working Women

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Laws protecting Women in the Workplace

Can an employer pay me less because I'm a woman?
No. Both Title VII and the Equal Pay Act (EPA) 29 U.S.C. § 206(d) make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex in the payment of wages or benefits. The laws against discrimination in compensation cover all forms of compensation, including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit sharing and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses, and benefits.
The EPA requires that men and women be given equal pay for equal work in the same establishment. The jobs need not be identical, but they must be substantially equal. It is the content of the job, not job titles, that determines whether jobs are substantially equal. Unlike the EPA, Title VII does not require that the job of the person claiming discrimination be substantially equal to that of a higher paid person of the other sex, nor does Title VII require the person claiming discrimination to work in the same establishment as the higher paid person. However, Title VII, unlike the EPA, requires proof of intent to discriminate on the basis of sex, while the EPA does not require proof of discriminatory intent.
Under the EPA, employers are prohibited from paying unequal wages to men and women who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility, and that are performed under similar working conditions within the same establishment. The law defines these terms as follows:
  • skill: measured by factors such as the experience, ability, education, and training required to perform the job. The key issue is what skills are required for the job, not what skills the individual employees may have.
  • effort: the amount of physical or mental exertion needed to perform the job.
  • responsibility: the degree of accountability required in performing the job.
  • working conditions: encompasses two factors: (1) physical surroundings like temperature, fumes, and ventilation, and (2) hazards.

Is it illegal to give different benefits to male and female employees?
Yes. Even though differences between the sexes may result in different benefit costs to an employer, it is against the law for an employer to discriminate between men and women with regard to benefits.
Employers are also not allowed to condition benefits available to employees and their spouses and families on whether the employee is the “head of the household'” or “principal wage earner” in the family unit, since that status bears no relationship to job performance and discriminatorily affects the rights of women employees.
An employer cannot make benefits available:
  • for the wives and families of male employees where the same benefits are not made available for the husbands and families of female employees;
  • for the wives of male employees which are not made available for female employees; or
  • for the husbands of female employees which are not made available for male employees.
It is also against the law for an employer to have a pension or retirement plan which establishes different optional or compulsory retirement ages based on sex, or which differentiates in benefits on the basis of sex.


Can an employer treat me differently because I can or have become pregnant?
No. Pregnancy discrimination, defined as discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions, is illegal under Title VII. In 1978, Congress passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (P.D.A.) §2000e(k) of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 amending Title VII to clarify that discrimination based on pregnancy is a form of sex discrimination.
Under the law, pregnancy is considered a temporary disability, as are related medical conditions such as severe morning sickness, doctor-ordered bed rest, childbirth, recovery from childbirth, and any other related medical condition. Title VII prohibits employers from treating pregnant women differently from other temporarily sick, injured or disabled employees. Employers must therefore give pregnant employees and temporarily physically disabled new mothers the same treatment and benefits that they give to employees with other temporary disabilities.

Can an employer treat me differently because I am unmarried or married?
Marital status discrimination is not prohibited by the federal laws generally applicable to private employment, which prohibit discrimination based on race and color, sex, religion, national origin, age and disability. However, several states have laws making it illegal to discriminate on the basis of marital status.
However, marital status discrimination and sex/gender discrimination can often coexist. If, for example, as a married woman you are rejected for a position involving frequent overnight trips with male coworkers because it is assumed your husband would be jealous, and the position is offered to a married man, the problem may be sex/gender discrimination instead of marital status discrimination. It is illegal for your employer to make assumptions based on gender stereotypes, even if those assumptions are motivated in part by your marital status


Source: workplacefairness.org

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