Employees in Georgia are protected by federal and state equal pay laws. The principal statute is the Equal Pay Act, which requires employers to pay workers the same wage for similar work regardless of their gender. The state version essentially tracks the federal law.
The Equal Pay Act prohibits pay discrimination on the basis of sex for equal work in jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort, and responsibility and that are performed under similar working conditions. The focus is on the actual job duties rather than job titles or classifications.
The skill level can be measured by the experience, ability, education and training needed for the job. Effort means the amount of physical or mental exertion needed to perform job. Responsibility means the degree of accountability required, including whether the employee supervisors other workers.
An employer cannot lower the wages of some employees to make wages equal. In addition, an employer cannot pay a higher wage to a male employee and then equalize the difference by periodically paying a bonus to a female employee.
Under the federal equal pay act, an employee does not need to file a charge of discrimination with EEOC. Instead, they are allowed to go directly to court and file a lawsuit.
Once an employee presents evidence that the jobs are substantially equal and that a pay disparity exists, the burden shifts to the employer to show that the pay disparity was due to one of the following:
To succeed in a pay discrimination case, the employee must demonstrate that the employer’s alleged reasons for the pay disparity are not valid.
The statute of limitations for filing a charge or lawsuit under the EPA is two years from the day of the last discriminatory paycheck, or three years in the case of willful discrimination. This is in effect a rolling deadline, which allows you to claim unequal pay retroactively to the earliest date it occurred.
If successful, an employee claiming pay discrimination is entitled to various remedies, including unpaid wages (the difference in pay), court costs and attorneys’ fees.
Employers cannot retaliate against an employee for making a complaint or bringing a claim under the statute or for testifying in such a proceeding. Doing so can subject the violator to fines.
Employees pursuing a claim should consult with a gender discrimination attorney who can analyze the specific details of their case, gather relevant evidence and make sure that all requirements for the claim are followed.