Unequal Pay Claims


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


Unfortunately, there is a dearth of case law in Wisconsin addressing unequal pay claims, so it isn't entirely clear how such claims proceed in Wisconsin. One court has said that in order to establish that you are being unequally compensated at work, you need to show that you are doing "equal or substantially similar" work as your male counterparts and receiving less pay than they are for it.


What does pay discrimination look like?


Pay discrimination occurs when women are being paid less than men for the same or substantially similar work.


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


The Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WFEA) states that it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate on the basis of sex against any individual in compensation for equal or substantially similar work. Additionally, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act of 1963 are federal laws that protect you from receiving unequal pay at work.


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


Wisconsin courts have shown a willingness to look to federal Equal Pay Act claims for guidance in determining equal pay claims. To show that work is equal under federal Equal Pay Act standards, you must show that you and your male counterpart's jobs consist of a "common core of tasks" or that "a significant portion of the two jobs is identical." If you can establish a "common core of tasks" between the two jobs, then the question becomes whether any additional tasks make the jobs substantially different. Additionally, when comparing two jobs, the working conditions do not need to be identical, merely similar.


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


The content of your jobs must have substantially similar duties and share similar responsibilities to qualify as a like or comparable position. Showing that your jobs consist of "common core tasks" will help determine if you are in a like or comparable position. Your jobs do not have to be identical, merely substantially similar.


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


No, under the WFEA, you do not need to show discriminatory intent, only that you are being paid less for equal work.


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


Your employer may offer up a number of reasons for the differences in pay. It may point to a seniority system, a merit system, a system based on quality or quantity of work, or any other factor that accounts for the difference other than sex. Your employer could also try to argue that the jobs simply aren't substantially similar. Ultimately, however, if your employer responds to the allegations with a valid nondiscriminatory reason for the difference in pay, you must show that the reasons given are pretextual, and that the true reason for the unequal compensation is based on your sex.


Does it matter when the discrimination occurred?


Yes, you must file a claim with the Wisconsin Equal Rights Division within three hundred (300) days of the discriminatory action. For more information, please see What Does the Law Say?


Does it matter how many employees my employer has?


No, the WFEA applies to all employers regardless of the number of employees. For more information, please see What Does the Law Say?


If I prove my unequal pay claim, what kind of remedies am I entitled to?


You may be entitled to injunctive or monetary relief. However, remedies vary from case to case. For more information, please see remedies.




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