Unequal Pay Claims


How do I prove that I am not receiving equal pay for equal work?


Under the Washington State Equal Pay Act, a plaintiff need only prove that the employer paid different wages to men and women who performed similar work.


In order to meet the basic requirements for an equal pay claim in a court, you must show:


1) That your employer pays different wages to you than to an employee of the opposite sex;
2) Because of being discriminated against on account of your sex; and
3) That you perform equal work on jobs that require equal skill, effort and responsibility; and that the jobs are performed under similar working conditions.


What does pay discrimination look like?


Pay discrimination occurs when a woman is paid less than a man who holds a substantially similar position.


What laws protect me from receiving unequal pay for equal work?


The Washington Law Against Discrimination (WLAD) and Article 31 of Washington's constitution prohibit paying women less than other employees based on their gender.


How do I prove that my work requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility as my coworker?


While you don't have to show that your job is identical to a higher paid position, you need to show that the two positions are "substantially similar." Courts look at the similarities in job descriptions, rather than similarities in job titles.


How do I know if I have a "like or comparable" position?


Washington courts look to whether or not the content of the job is substantially equal, rather than merely comparable. Job descriptions play a vital role in this determination, rather than job titles. Other factors such as seniority systems or merit systems are considered legitimate reasons to pay you less compared to another employee and are legal as long as they have nothing to do with your sex.


Must I prove that my employer intentionally paid me less because I am a female?


No. You do not need to establish your employer's discriminatory intent. You only need to show that you were being paid less for equal work. It falls on your employer to show that it paid you differently for legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons.


What could my employer do to deny my allegations, and how do I respond to their denials?


If you've established an initial presumption of discrimination your employer will have an opportunity to demonstrate that you were not paid the same as other employees for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons. Ultimately, you must present evidence to convince the court or the jury that the given reasons are really pretext and that the true cause of the unequal pay was sex discrimination. You must show that gender was a "substantial factor" in deciding to may you less.


Does it matter when the discrimination occurred?


Washington enforces a very strict time limit on when a claim of sex discrimination can be filed. You must file your complaint with the Commission within six months of the date of your employer's discriminatory conduct. Under federal law, however, you have three hundred (300) days to file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). If you choose to sue in the courts with a private attorney you have roughly three years to file the claim; however, the sooner you talk to someone at the state or federal agency or a private attorney the better.


What options do I have if I my employer has fewer than 8 employees?


Unfortunately, under Washington law, if your employer has fewer than eight (8) employees, your legal options are severely limited. Employers with fewer than eight (8) employees are exempt from the WLAD. The Washington Supreme Court, however, found that the state has established a clear public policy against discrimination based on sex in both statute and judicial opinions. As a result, if you believe that you have been fired because of sex discrimination, you may have a legitimate cause of action for the common-law tort of wrongful discharge even if your employer has less than eight (8) employees.


If I prove my Equal Pay claim, what kind of remedies am I entitled to?


You may be entitled to injunctive relief or monetary damages. For more information, please see Remedies.



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