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Exceptions to equal pay in the workplace

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 says, among other things, that men and women are to be paid the same amount when doing the same jobs. As women became more involved in the workforce, it was noted that men were often paid more, and this Act was passed in an effort to even things out and ensure that gender-based discrimination was not taking place.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule. First of all, the Act states that pay must be equal when the job requires an equal amount of effort, skill and responsibility. So, even if two people have similar positions, one person can be paid more if it's determined that he or she is more talented, works harder or has more daily duties.

Payment can also be unequal if the difference is caused by:

-- A merit system.-- A seniority system.-- A production-based payment system.-- A quality-based payment system.

For example, a man could be hired to be an office manager and paid $80,000 per year. The office could grow over the next five years, and another office manager could be hired. The first manager's pay could be bumped up to $90,000 based on his experience and seniority, and this would not violate the Equal Pay Act even if a female office manager was then brought on at $80,000.

Of course, these exceptions can create some gray areas. Employers may claim the difference in pay is based on one of these exceptions in order to make it appear that gender-based discrimination isn't taking place, even though it is. If you do think you're being discriminated against, it might be time to explore your legal options.

Source: FIndLaw, "Equal Pay Act of 1963," accessed Jan. 20, 2017

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