Equal Pay Act of 1963 (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
In an effort to end gender-based discrimination in labor wages, Congress enacted the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Pub. L. No. 88-38, 77 Stat. 56 (codified at 29 U.S.C.A. § 206(b)). The act established the requirement that women should receive "equal pay for equal work." However, the average wages given to women are still lower than those of men, and some critics have deemed the Equal Pay Act as a failure.
Congress had attempted on a number of occasions prior to 1963 to enact similar legislation. The idea for the statute arose during WORLD WAR II, when many women entered the workforce while men were overseas. The War Labor Board established a policy of "equal pay for women." According to its policy, women were to receive equal pay for work that was of "comparable quality and quantity" to the responsibilities of men. When members of Congress introduced legislation called the Women's Equal Pay Act of 1945, it contained the phrase "comparable work." This provision was the subject of a heated debate, and the bill failed to pass.
In the years that followed World War II, men reemerged as dominant figures in the workforce and attempts in Congress to enact an equal pay law stalled. During the early 1960s, however, Congress reconsidered the issue. When the phrase "equal work" was employed instead of "comparable work," the...
(The entire section is 939 words.)
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Equal Pay Act of 1963 (Major Acts of Congress)
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA) (P.L. No. 88-38, 77 Stat. 56, 59) prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of gender by compensating workers differently for jobs that require equal skill, effort and responsibility. In adopting the EPA, an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, Congress hoped to eliminate wage differentials because they were thought to depress wages and the standard of living, prevent maximum utilization of available labor resources, lead to labor disputes, and constitute an unfair method of competition. Congress also strove to eliminate stereotypes and misconceptions regarding the value of work performed by women.
Attempts to curb gender-based pay disparities in American industry were not new in 1963. In fact, during World War II (1939945), the War Labor Board declared and administered a policy of "equal pay for women." Prior to the passage of the EPA, several presidential administrations had proposed legislation to eliminate gender-based wage discrimination. They argued that employees doing equal work should be paid equal wages regardless of their gender.
Success finally came on February 14, 1963, when, in a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz recommended enactment of "equal pay" legislation and submitted a draft bill. In its deliberations over the act, however, Congress purposely rejected the concept of "equal pay for comparable work" promoted by some advocates of this law, opting instead to adopt an "equal pay for equal work" formula. "Equal work" means jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort and responsibility and which workers perform under similar working conditions.
DETAILS OF THE EQUAL PAY ACT
Congress made this legislative choice because it worried that the adoption of a doctrine of comparable worth would ignore the economic realities of supply and demand. It would also burden government agencies and courts with the "impossible task of ascertaining the worth of comparable work, an area in which they have little expertise." Congress concluded, therefore, that government intervention to equalize wage differentials would only succeed where men's and women's jobs were identical or nearly so, thus unarguably of equal worth.
Section One of the act provided that those employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Acts (FLSA) must provide equal pay for equal work regardless of gender, and Section Two of the bill amends the FLSA to state that wage differentials based solely on the gender of the employee are an unfair labor standard. Section Three lists special circumstances and exemptions to the act. Section Four, among other things, gives employers bound by collective bargaining agreements a one-year moratorium on enforcement, or until the collective bargaining agreement expired, whichever came first, before compliance was required.
Congress exempted several forms of discrimination from the operation of the EPA. These exceptions include shift differentials, restrictions on or differences based on the time of day worked, hours of work, and the lifting or moving of heavy objects. The EPA also excluded differences based on experience, training or ability, as well as unusual or higher than normal wage rates which employers maintained for valid reasons.
In addition the law exempts wage payments if made pursuant to a seniority system, a merit system, a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or one which creates a differential based on any factor other than sex. For example, differences in the employer's economic benefit received from the work performed can justify a wage differential. All of the occupational exemptions originally allowed for in the FLSA as a matter of political compromise also apply to the EPA, so workers in agriculture, hotels, motels, restaurants, and laundries, are excluded from the EPA, as are workers in professional, managerial and administrative occupations.
LITIGATION AND SUBSEQUENT LEGISLATION
In establishing the EPA, Congress provided employees with remedies for employer violations of the law, such as private enforcement in certain carefully defined situations. The legislation includes a comprehensive remedial scheme. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) currently enforces the EPA so that compliance with all employment-related laws prohibiting discrimination, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, may be coordinated.
Congress eventually broadened the EPA's coverage by the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, and sex, is broader than the EPA. Title VII is, in other words, a general anti-discrimination law covering more than just gender discrimination in pay.
Nevertheless, actions involving wage discrimination based on sex can be brought under both the EPA and Title VII. The standards for evaluation of claims under the two statutes, however, are not the same. There is, for example, no "equal work" requirement necessary to bring Title VII gender discrimination claims. Under the EPA, courts determine whether jobs are to be considered "equal work" on a case by case basis.
In sum, courts use many factors to determine similarities and differences between jobs which might establish a valid difference in pay regardless of gender. Generally, job classification systems make allowances for these factors. A job classification system that does not discriminate on the basis of gender will serve as a valid defense to a charge of discrimination.
See also: CIVIL RIGHTS ACTS OF 1964; FAIR LABOR STANDARDS ACT; PREGNANCY DISCRIMINATION ACT.
Fogel, Walter A. The Equal Pay Act. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1984
Hewitt, Patricia. Rights for Women: A Guide to the Sex Discrimination Act, the Equal Pay Act, Paid Maternity Leave, Pension Schemed and Unfair Dismissal. London: National Council for Civil Liberties, 1975