The Equal Pay Act requires that men and women receive equal pay for substantially equal work that is performed within the same establishment. You have shown that your claim of unequal pay for equal work is valid, and your employer has failed to justify the pay difference. You find that you are entitled to a raise, back pay, liquidated damages and attorney fees.
When it is determined that your employer has violated the Equal Pay Act (EPA), you are entitled to a remedy that may include, in the case of a female employee:
- A pay raise to the amount paid to your male coworker who is performing the same work as you
- Back pay that consists of any increase in wages, bonuses, pension benefits and so on that is equal to the difference between your pay and your male coworker's pay for the entire period of the violation
- Liquidated damages, which is an award of money that is equal to the award of back pay
- A recovery of attorney fees
If the employer fired or demoted you in retaliation
for filing an EPA claim against it, the employer may be required to reinstate or promote you and pay you lost wages and an equal amount as liquidated damages.
However, the employer may not be required to pay you liquidated damages, if the employer can show that the violation was made in good faith and with a reasonable belief that the pay difference was not a violation of the EPA.
If you are successful in proving your EPA claim, the employer must not only provide you with relief, it must also fix the violation by raising the wages of all other female employees who are doing the same work and must compensate all female workers with back pay that covers the entire period of the violation. The employer is not permitted to lower the male coworker's wages to the wages that were paid to you.
Title VII Remedies
If you coupled your EPA claim with a similar sex discrimination claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), you have additional remedies to consider. Under the guidelines of the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission (EEOC), a violation of the EPA constitutes a violation of Title VII.
Title VII permits a recovery for compensatory damages, such as wages, and for punitive damages, which is an award of money meant to punish the employer and to discourage similar conduct in the future. Because liquidated damages under the EPA are compensatory in nature, you cannot recover both liquidated damages under the EPA and compensatory damages under Title VII for the same claim. However, punitive damages can be recovered under Title VII even if liquidated damages are awarded under the EPA.
Because the calculation and form of relief under the EPA and Title VII are complicated, it is best to consult with an labor and employment law attorney.
Reliance on Rulings from Government Agencies
Your employer can make one last attempt of avoiding liability or responsibility for paying different wages for equal work, if the employer can show that it acted in good faith reliance on a written EEOC regulation, order or ruling or any EEOC administrative practice or enforcement policy.
Examples of the types of EEOC documents that support this defense include:
- Written opinion letters signed by the EEOC General Counsel
- EEOC policies, regulations and other certain matters published in the Federal Register that expressly permit reliance by the employer