Pay Equity

Cleo Rotsen

New Member

I am a female and fall into the protected age class. Two younger males in my department are more highly compensated (one in the same position, the other in a lower job grade - one internal move, one external). We work in a specialized area of finance. I have the most seniority in our group (three years versus one+ years) and outperform both of my team members from a merit perspective as well as from a project completion standpoint. My job related knowledge and skills also exceed those of my peers. I am required to train them, review some of their work, and occasionally revise/redo their work.

These were bad hiring decisions. End of story. No action has been taken to address the performance issues (we have turnover in our group). The workload is uneven (skewed to me) because I am the only employee able to consistently execute. I am demoralized by the pay differential and spoke to my manager who encouraged me to contact HR to remedy.

HR offered very little in the way of support or acknowledgment. I had to send multiple emails to receive a response. When HR finally spoke to my manager, they offered a pittance concession to address the imbalance, noting that my colleagues have more experience (finance) than me. The finance experience HR is rewarding is not directly related to our niche field, and does not enhance my colleagues' job performance.

I have skills I acquired from another line of work (in the same industry) which enable me to execute my job and pick up department slack yet those skills are not considered valid from an HR perspective.

It has been over a year since these two individuals were hired. The on-the-job performance gap is nowhere close to being bridged or addressed. HR's discretion in valuing experience is perpetuating the compensation gap and making my work life intolerable. At this point in their tenure and based on the quality and quantity of work, is the pay gap legally justifiable?

Kind Regards.
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It is a sad fact of life, very common and yes, legal, that often the first one in is the lowest paid. As the market changes, new people who come in often come in at higher rates, and the employer is not legally obligated to equalize the pay. What the pay equity laws require is not that everyone working in the same position receive the same pay, but that any differences in pay are not based in a characteristic protected by law. DOH is not a characteristic protected by law.

A very good way to find yourself released into the open market to find yourself a job with higher pay, is to complain that you're not being paid the same as your co-workers. Certainly you are free to look for a higher paying job and quit when you find one, but insisting that you should be paid more because of what other people are being paid, is an excellent way to ensure that your return to the open market is involuntary.

If you feel you must pursue this, the safe way to do it is not to compare yourself to others, but to express it in terms of what value you bring to the company. What did you contribute to the bottom line? What processes did you improve? What accounts did you close? What new procedures did you implement and how did that increase the company's value? NOT I did this and Joe and Jim only did that, but I did this and the company gained this benefits because of it.

But frankly, if you complained that you were being paid less than your counterparts (and just how did you know that, anyway) and the company's response was ANYTHING but "Don't let the door hit you on the way out to find a better paying job", then IMO you dodged a bullet.
One way to really find out how much your company values you is to find another job that pays at least competively with what these new employees are getting paid and then tell the company that if it wants to keep you, it needs to at least match that other offer. This involves risk, because if they reject matching the pay and you stay, you lose any credibility to try that kind of hard bargaining in the future. So if they won't pay up, make good on the threat and join the other company. You may find out that the change does you some good and that you feel better about coming to work for an employer who properly values what you bring to the job. Your current employer may then come to realize it needed you more than it thought when it has to rely on those underperformers to get the job done. But at that point, it wouldn't be your problem to worry about.
Thank you all for your responses. I work for the state so compensation is public knowledge.

I have a follow up question. I found the information below on the EEOC website.

a. Education, Experience, Training, and Ability
While the relative education, experience, training, and/or ability of individual jobholders are not relevant to determining whether their jobs require equal skill, these factors can, in some cases, justify a compensation disparity. Employers can offer higher compensation to applicants and employees who have greater education, experience, training, or ability where the qualification is related to job performance or otherwise benefits the employer's business.(67) Such a qualification would not justify higher compensation if the employer was not aware of it when it set the compensation, or if the employer does not consistently rely on such a qualification.(68) Furthermore, the difference in education, experience, training, or ability must correspond to the compensation disparity. Thus, a very slight difference in experience would not justify a significant compensation disparity. Moreover, continued reliance on pre-hire qualifications is less reasonable the longer the lower paid employee has performed at a level substantially equal to, or greater than, his or her counterpart.(69)

My question:
  1. Per the EEOC website, experience is supposed to be related to job performance or benefit the business - this is not the case. My peers' experience is only tangentially related to our current niche field and does not benefit the business to any reasonable extent.
  2. It has been a year or more since my team members were hired and there is no refuting their mediocre job performance
What does the second bolded section of text imply for a legal interpretation? My job is not like IT jobs...the skills we need to perform as not as readily transferrable or global in nature.

Why does my job performance not merit consideration at this point in time? Merit increases will never help me bridge the gap.

Kind Regards.

Section 10 Compensation Discrimination | U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (
The EEOC is only concerned with inequities that are based in a characteristic protected by law. They are not interested in anything that is not related to issues related to race, religion, national origin etc. If you're going to play the EEOC card, you'd better have some valid and supportable evidence that the sole reason you are paid less is that you are female, and NOT because of the reasons already cited. And when I say evidence, I'm talking about something that would stand up in a court of law.
What if I can demonstrate that every male in the department was started a higher salary than me for the same position (and I have moved two job grades in three years)?
If they were hired after you, that's not definitive proof of gender discrimination by a very long shot. Read my first post and also retic's.
They were hired before me. Not the two I mention in previous posts. I am referring to other peers who are no longer part of the department.
Cleo, here is what I am talking about.

I have been in my current position for 13 years. I am at the present time the team leader and I do additional duties over and above what the rest of my team does, so I get paid more.

However, there are 3 members of my team who have been in place for 1, 2, and 3 years respectively. While I do some things that they don't do, I also do everything that they do, and have been doing everything they do for the entire 13 years I've been in the job. I've been there 10, 11 and 12 years longer than they have, and they're a WHOLE lot closer to me in pay than they would be if they'd been hired the same rate I have.

They were hired at over $20,000 more than I was hired at. Was that because of any illegal discrimination? No, it's because the economy and the market conditions were different when I was hired than when they were hired.

I'm not going to tell you not to pursue it legally. You can contact the EEOC if you really, truly think you can make a case that the SOLE reason they are paid more is that you are female. But if your agency can point to one female in a similar situation to yours that is paid at the higher rate, that's it; your discrimination suit just died. They don't have to be in exactly the same job you are - a similarly situated job will do. You don't have anything resembling a slam dunk case; on what you've given me, I don't think you have a case at all. But I also think you're not going to believe anything I tell you unless it's what you want to hear.

And btw, I'm female.
There is one female in our department who is the highest paid member of our team. She started at the approximately the same time as the two males in my thread (over a year ago). She also has thirty years experience in the field (actual niche experience not tangential experience). While she is not a rock-star performer, she has knowledge the rest of the team (myself included) lack. I am not including her in my inquiry. My dispute is between me and my male peers.
How can three years justify $10,000-$30,000 pay differential (one team member is in a lower job grade) when the performance is not commensurate?
For the reasons I've been attempting to explain to you; the job market and the economy were in different places when I started in 2010, than when they started in 2021, 2022 and 2023 respectively.

And that female co-worker you're not including in your complaint? You'd better, because you just confirmed that any discrimination complaint you may file will fail.
From the EEOC website:

""Plaintiff alleging discrimination does not need to show that her employer discriminated against her entire subclass of women, only that she herself was discriminated against at least in part because of her sex.[
Fine. Clearly you've made up your mind. But do us a favor. When you come back to tell us how wrong we all were and how big an award you won from your EEOC claim, make sure you wait long enough to make it believable. Those of us who deal with this as a matter of our jobs have been amused by those who made such an announcement knowing that such awards take a matter of years; we've had posters who tried to tell us they've received them in only a matter of days. When that happens, we KNOW they're lying. Give yourself a break and make yourself believable when you lie about it, okay?
The Equal Pay Act requires that men and women in the same workplace be given equal pay for equal work. The jobs need not be identical, but they must be substantially equal. Job content (not job titles) determines whether jobs are substantially equal. All forms of pay are covered by this law, 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. If there is an inequality in wages between men and women, employers may not reduce the wages of either sex to equalize their pay.

An individual alleging a violation of the EPA may go directly to court and is not required to file an EEOC charge beforehand. The time limit for filing an EPA charge with the EEOC and the time limit for going to court are the same: within two years of the alleged unlawful compensation practice or, in the case of a willful violation, within three years. The filing of an EEOC charge under the EPA does not extend the time frame for going to court.

Title VII also makes it illegal to discriminate based on sex in pay and benefits. Therefore, someone who has an Equal Pay Act claim may also have a claim under Title VII.

Title VII, the ADEA, and the ADA prohibit compensation discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability. Unlike the EPA, there is no requirement under Title VII, the ADEA, or the ADA that the jobs must be substantially equal.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963
However, neither law requires that existing employees all be given raises when another employee is hired at a higher rate due to market changes.
However, neither law requires that existing employees all be given raises when another employee is hired at a higher rate due to market changes.

Correct you are, madam, correct you are! ☺

(˃̣̣̥‿˂̣̣̥) (˃̣̣̥ w ˂̣̣̥) (ಡ 艸ಡ)
I did not say I was going to take this issue to court. I am considering filing an internal complaint. By posting on this discussion board, I was hoping to gain some clarity on what my options are (if any) and how to document. I did not expect to be ridiculed.

If my original HR inquiry had no merit, why would HR decide to offer a small bump in my current compensation?

Also, there was a complaint filed recently by a woman in a department closely allied with mine alleging pay inequity - in this case, the woman claimed that she was unfairly compensated because the man who held the position before her was paid more. The man retired two years ago and had over thirty years experience. This individual has been in her job for two years with a total of 12 years experience. The outcome? This person got moved to a higher pay grade (same position).