Pay discrimination

You have the right to be paid fairly for your work.

You have rights when it comes to compensation for your work. You have the right to file a complaint or a Charge of Discrimination, participate in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit, engage in protected equal employment opportunity (EEO) activity, or oppose discrimination without being retaliated against by your employer.

What this means for you

Under the Equal Pay Act, women and men have the right to receive equal pay if they perform equal work in the same workplace. Under this law, it does not matter how many employees an employer has, and most employees across both the public and private sectors are covered. The jobs or work being compared don’t have to be identical, but they must be “substantially equal.” Job content (not job titles) is what determines this. All forms of compensation are covered, meaning not only pay, but also benefits.

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We’re here to help.

We are committed to helping you understand your rights as a worker. Many questions about your rights may be answered by using the following elaws (Employment Laws Assistance for Workers and Small Businesses) Advisors:

For additional assistance, please contact:

OFCCP: 1-800-397-6251 (TTY 1-877-889-5627) or the OFCCP Help Desk

EEOC: 1-800-669-4000 (ASL Video Phone: 1-844-234-5122), or use the Public Portal

Additional resources

Other federal laws prohibit most employers with at least 15 employees (or at least 20 employees, with respect to age) from compensation discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. But, under these laws, there is no requirement that the jobs be “substantially equal.” Rather, discrimination may be proven when there is evidence of, for example:

  • discriminatory application of a wage policy or system, or wage-setting techniques that are discriminatory,
  • barriers to equal access to higher paying jobs,
  • wages being intentionally lowered because of the protected characteristic(s) of the employees in the job, or
  • a seemingly fair compensation policy or practice that has a significantly negative impact on employees in a protected class without a demonstration that the policy or practice is job-related and consistent with business necessity.

Furthermore, under Executive Order 11246, certain federal contractors and subcontractors are prohibited from discriminating in employment decisions, including pay, on the basis of sex (as well as race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran).

Depending on the size of the organization you work for and whether it is a federal contractor or subcontractor, you may be able to submit a claim under more than one law if you feel you have experienced pay discrimination based on sex.

You generally have a right to protection from discrimination regardless of your immigration status, although, in some cases, immigration status may limit the remedies that you’ll be able to obtain.

Need more information?
The elaws (Employment Laws Assistance for Workers and Small Businesses) Advisors are a set of online tools developed by the U.S. Department of Labor to help employees and employers understand their rights and responsibilities under Federal employment laws.