Law Offices of Lauren Abrams blog

Would outing companies' pay gaps publicly end the discrimination?

Under the Equal Pay Act, covered employers are required to keep detailed records about their employees and wage policies. This because the Act prohibits employers from paying different wages, based on gender, to employees who perform jobs that require essentially the same degree of skill, responsibility and effort and under similar working conditions.

Other federal laws and California's FEHA also prohibit sex discrimination and require companies to keep records, too, and it's easy to understand why. If an employee should come forward with a complaint about possible wage discrimination, the state and federal agencies tasked with enforcing the law will need those records to evaluate that complaint. Absent specific complaints, however, those records generally remain hidden from the public eye.

In Great Britain, as in the U.S., there appears to be a substantial gender-based pay gap. Female Brits earn an average of 10 percent less than similarly situated men, and Prime Minister David Cameron aims to eliminate that pay gap "within a generation."

How? Requiring large employers publicly post, by gender, the average salaries of their employees.

Posting each company's pay gap: Bringing in sunlight or shaming employers?

Gender-based discrepancies in pay are a global issue, and countries worldwide are working to tackle it. While progress has slowly been made, some continue to quibble over numbers and deny it's even happening. Yet the Center for American Progress estimates that eliminating the pay gap in the United States could cut our poverty rate in half.

The U.K. proposal is currently in the public consultation process and won't be in effect until at least next year. Cameron hopes it "will cast sunlight on the discrepancies and create the pressure we need for change, driving women's wages up."

Critics worry that publicly outing employers would create an onerous burden while doing nothing to address the substantial structural blocks in the way of progress.

What do you think? Would you like to know the average pay gap at your company, or one you were considering applying to? Would making that information public pressure companies into reducing their pay differentials?

Source: The Atlantic, "Exposing Companies That Pay Women Less Than Men," Edward Delman, July 16, 2015 

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