Equal pay for equal work is the refrain long associated with the laudable goal of ensuring that female employees’ salaries are on an equal footing with those of male employees, all else being equal. At the federal level, employees seeking to enforce their rights generally had two avenues of pursuing these claims in court: they could seek redress under the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (the Equal Pay Act) or under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act (Title VII) and its framework for sex-based pay disparity claims.
For the past several years, courts in the Second Circuit applied the Equal Pay Act standard to both Equal Pay Act claims and Title VII claims. The Equal Pay Act requires a plaintiff to show they are paid less than another employee of the opposite sex that is in a job that is substantially the same and requires equal skill and responsibility under working conditions that are similar. By conflating the Equal Pay Act’s “equal pay for equal work” standard with Title VII, plaintiffs seeking to establish a gender-based pay disparity claim faced a legal standard that amounted to distinction without a difference.
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