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SALARIES / JUN. 26, 2014
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How to Tackle Wage Discrimination at Work

gender gap salary discrimination
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Money is a taboo subject in some cultures. Therefore, it's not unusual for friends and family to avoid money discussions, and some jobs have a strict policy that forbids employees from discussing salaries with each other. Interestingly enough, while employers might prefer that employees refrain from talking about their salary, employers cannot stop workers from divulging this information. 

"Employers who try to prohibit employees from talking about pay really set themselves up for potential exposure to violating the National Labor Relations Act," says Stacey Carroll, compensation expert for PayScale.com. According to this legislation, employees have the right to discuss work conditions with their colleagues, regardless of whether they belong to a union.

This isn't the best news for employers, especially since salary discussions among employees may reveal that some workers earn significantly more than colleagues who do the same job. In fact, salary discussions can open the door to a wage discrimination lawsuit. 

Wage discrimination is when an employer pays a male employee more than a female for virtually the same job. Wage inequality isn't anything new, and for decades women have fought to earn wages comparable with their male counterparts. A 2013 report from the U.S Census Bureau reveals that the "gap between the wages paid to women and men in this country has not improved in the last 11 years." The study also shows that "women with full-time, year-round jobs are paid just 77 cents for every dollar paid to men who hold full-time, year-round jobs."

As a female employee, learning that a male coworker in the same position earns more can be unsettling, especially if you have the same experience and educational background. And with this information, you might feel incline to run into your supervisor's office and demand more money. This approach, however, might not get the desired results. 

Wage discrimination is real, and for some female workers, it's easier to ignore the problem. But you don't have to take this subtle abuse. There are ways to tackle salary inequalities and get the pay you deserve. 

Know Your Worth

To win this fight, you have to prove that you're underpaid. Be proactive and research average salaries for people in your position based on your education, experience and skills. Websites like Payscale.com and Salary.com can help assess your worth. Also, check job boards in your area to learn what other companies are paying for the same position. You might also speak with a headhunter. These professionals not only find suitable candidates to fill job openings, they can provide insight regarding your worth. 

Speak with Your Boss

If you believe that you're a victim of wage discrimination, you might be able to resolve the issue without filing a claim against your employer. After arming yourself with salary data, which basically confirms that you're underpaid, schedule a meeting with your supervisor or the human resources department. 

  • Ask about your job performance - This is the best way to know whether management is happy with your performance. If your performance needs improving, this might explain why a male counterpart earns more. However, if the company is satisfied with your performance, this is the perfect time to bring up that you're underpaid. Be respectful and professional. 
  • Present the facts and ask for a salary adjustment - Be direct and ask your employer for a raise. Have a salary in mind and be ready to negotiate. Also, be prepared to show proof that you're underpaid. This can include online research regarding average salaries for the local area. To support your claim, mention your past and recent achievements. Since no one else is going to fight for you, it's important that you speak up.

Play Hardball

After hearing your side, your boss may agree that you're underpaid and adjust your salary accordingly, which essentially ends your wage discrimination issue. However, there's a chance that your boss will disagree. At this time you have a choice: either accept the decision and move on, or play hardball and mention the differences in pay between you and a male employee completing the same job. According to the Equal Pay Act, employers must give equal pay, for equal work. The fact that you're aware of unequal pay may prompt your employer to comply with your request. 

File Lawsuit Under the Equal Pay Act

If your employer refuses to adjust your pay, you can file a claim against your company. To fight wage discrimination, you'll have to prove that you're receiving unfair compensation, which is tricky. Don't expect the company to give you salary information for other employees. However, your lawyer will work on your behalf to get this information; and if the case goes to court, a judge will require your employer to provide this information. Once a claim is filed, your employer must show that there is a legitimate reason for wage disparity. 

You deserve to get paid your worth. Therefore, don't allow employers to take advantage of you. You have rights and filing a claim against the company can put an end to discrimination and help future workers receive equal pay.

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