Equal Pay Claims


It happened to me: A Real Life Story


How do I prove that I am being paid less because I am a woman?


To make out an unequal pay claim you must show:
1. You are a member of a protected class;
2. You performed your job in keeping with your employer's expectations; and
3. You were paid less than members outside your protected class who held the same position.

If you can show direct evidence of discrimination, the above requirements are automatically met. Direct evidence is evidence showing a discriminatory motive, and not just evidence that infers a discriminatory motive.


How do I show that I am a member of the protected class?


This element is easily satisfied. In Maine, women are a protected class under the Maine Human Rights Act (MHRA).


How do I show that I performed my job in keeping with my employer's expectations?


If there are indications of positive performance, such as promotions, or positive evaluations, then courts have generally held this is enough to establish that you performed in keeping with your employer's expectations.


How do I show I was paid less than members outside of my protected class who held the same position?


You need to show that a male whose job is comparable to yours is paid more. You do not have to show that the job is exactly the same, however. In a case involving prison guards working at two separate prisons, the court held that the job duties in the prison that employed mostly women were substantially similar to the prison that employed mostly men. The court upheld a finding of sex based wage discrimination. Similarly, a court found that a woman met this element when she proved she was paid a dollar an hour less then a man for the same exact work.


I can meet the initial requirements. Now what?


Your employer now has an opportunity to offer a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for paying you less than a man. For instance, if your employer can show that they have a merit or seniority system in place, then these are legitimate non-discriminatory reasons to account for the pay difference.

If your employer offers a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the differences in pay, you have the opportunity to prove that the reason they offer was pretext. Pretext is a false reason given to cover the real, discriminatory reason for the adverse action. As an example of this, an employer claimed that the pay discrepancy was a clerical error. The court found sufficient evidence to support this reason, but the plaintiff was able to prove that the person the employer claimed made the clerical error actually had no ability to do so, and that the employer actually set the rate of pay.



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