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Different pay for the same work: Is it discrimination?

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There are few thing as disheartening to an employee than learning that someone else is getting paid a lot more for the same job.

When two workers are paid different amounts for the same job, warning bells may sound. Although there are legitimate reasons why two workers may be paid different amounts for performing essential the same job, a disparity in pay may be a sign of discrimination. 

How can a worker recognize legitimate pay disparities versus pay discrimination? Let's take a look at some legitimate reasons why an employer may pay one employee more than another for performing the same job:

  • Experience: It is in an employer's best interests to hire qualified, experienced employees. Employers will compensate new employees based on their experience, and that amount may be comparable to (or more than) what existing employees are already making.
  • Education: Certain degrees or certifications may justify higher pay.
  • Work ethic: An employer may reward an employee financially for good work. Giving an employee a raise for good work is legal.
  • Favoritism: Favoritism may seem unfair, but it is not illegal. An employer can give a certain employee a raise simply because he or she likes the employee. This is legal as long as the employer is giving a raise for non-discriminatory reasons.
  • Market demand: Changes in market demand may justify higher pay at different times.

Illegal discrimination occurs when an employer pays an employee less due to a discriminatory reason: Paying older workers less because of their age; paying workers of a certain religion less because of their religion; paying female employees less because they are female, etc.

The law protects employees from discrimination in the workplace. Employees cannot be discriminated against on the basis of age, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, national origin, disability, association with a disabled loved one, and more.

There are many factors at play in a wage discrimination case. Since there can be many possible explanations for differences in pay - many of which are legal - these cases typically involve thorough investigation and involvement from HR departments.

If you suspect that you are the victim of pay discrimination at work, it is advisable to consult an employment law attorney. An attorney can review your case, answer your questions, and advise you of your legal rights and options.

Free legal consultation: Call Bononi Law Group, LLP, at 866-295-7512.

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