For Equal Pay Day this year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued an update on its enforcement activity, highlighting on the penalty assessments for the 2018 FY.

In particular, the EEOC stated that for the 2018 FY, the agency collected nearly $15 million from cases involving equal pay violations: $10.5 million for resolving administrative equal pay cases and $4.1 million in litigation for discrimination victims whose claims included equal pay violations.

The EEOC also disclosed some of the bigger equal pay cases it has filed recently:

  • The University of Denver had to pay roughly $2.66 million to seven female law school professors because their male colleagues were being paid more for performing the same or substantially similar work. In addition to the monetary damages, the consent decree settling the lawsuit also requires the University of Denver to increase the 2018 salaries of the seven female professors; annually publish salary and compensation information to tenure, tenure-track, and contract faculty; and employ a labor economist to conduct an annual compensa­tion equity study. According to an EEOC press release, the university is also required to work with an independent consultant to review methods and criteria used to determine pay and compensation. The standards used to determine raises each year will be announced to the faculty in advance of the academic year. The independent consultant will also assist the university to revise its anti-discrimination policies and to conduct an informational campaign and training on those anti-discrimination policies. The decree will remain in effect for six years.
  • Prince George’s County, Md., will pay $145,402 and furnish significant equitable relief to settle a federal pay discrimination lawsuit, for violating the federal Equal Pay Act (EPA). The County was found to have paid a female engineer lower wages than it paid to male colleagues performing equal work. According to an EEOC press release, a three-year consent decree resolving the suit enjoins Prince George’s County from engaging in sex-based wage discrimination in the future. The County will increase the female engineer’s salary to ensure parity with her male comparators. The County will also hire a consultant to ensure, among other things, that the County’s compensation policies and procedures, and individual salary determinations, comply with the EPA.
  • Denton County in Texas paid $115,000 in damages to a former female primary care doctor who worked in the Denton County Public Health Department. The County hired a male colleague at a higher starting salary despite having identical duties. The EEOC, in a press release, noted that Denton County was also required to implement a new written, compensation policy for all new physicians in the public health department. Further, the County must provide equal pay training and post equal pay notices in the Public Health Department.

The EEOC’s enforcement activity does not discriminate across professions and industries, and can even involve government agencies. EEOC’s enforcement for FY 2019 may increase over previous years with more attention being paid to equal pay issues by a variety of local governments, agencies, NGOs and businesses.

For starters, a federal judge in Washington D.C. recently lifted the stay of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) stay on pay data requirements for EEO-1 reporting. This requires organizations to report on pay data as part of the annual EEO-1 Report submitted to the EEOC. If organizations are required to report on their pay data, the EEOC will more readily be able to identify and enforce pay equity laws and litigation.

Additionally, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have just passed the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA), which would add protections to the federal Equal Pay Act and Fair Labor Standards Act to fill in some of the potholes the current statutes leave in employment law. The PFA still needs to be passed by the U.S. Senate. Many state and governments have passed even more progressive laws to encourage equal pay for all.

In this fast-changing environment, employers need to be vigilant on changes in equal pay laws in the states and communities in which they operate. All of these new laws are signs that government sees business as having a role to play in the movement to close the gender wage gap in America. The question is which businesses will be viewed as leaders and which will be viewed as being forced to provide equal pay. Best practices suggest conducting a pay equity audit to discover potential pay disparities so that your business can get ahead of the curve.

To learn more about achieving pay equity, click here.