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Federal Regulations: Equal Pay Act

Federal Regulations: Equal Pay Act

Introduction

Employment discrimination takes many forms, but it always involves different attitude towards people due to their distinctive features, leading to inequality of treatment and opportunities. In other words, discrimination results in inequity and amplifies it. Moreover, it places limitations on the freedom of a person to develop his/her skills as well as opportunities to choose his/her path in life and follow personal and professional aspirations. In the United States, as in other countries, the process of making the status of men and women equal has a long history. From the very beginning, women of the country were deprived of many civil, political and economic rights. However, since then, the American legislation was improved in order to provide equality by adoption of various laws, including the one the following research is dedicated to – the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

An examination of the literature on the American laws concerning the discrimination in the workplace shows that the American legislation is a reflection of clear anti-discrimination policy, by which the law defines how an employer must or must not act in a particular situation.

During the research, a complex of scientific and specialized methods has been used, including dialectical one for describing the history and the contents of Equal Pay Act, statistical method for providing the necessary information for the following research, and analytical method for studying the given information.

Analysis

History of the Act

As was mentioned before, from the very beginning, women of the U.S. were deprived of many civil, political and economic rights. In the middle of the 19th century, part of the civil restrictions on married women was canceled, but their legal status was still different from that of men (Gregory, 2003). In the 1930s, American feminists tried t solve the problem of equality between women and men. According to them, women and men should have equal rights, and the attitude of employers to both sexes must be equal as well. Any hint of the need for special treatment of women in the labor market makes them less competitive, so legislation should be gender-neutral. Representatives of this view, united in the National Women’s Party and supported by several women’s organizations, prepared and presented to the Congress the 27th Amendment to the Constitution or the so-called Equal Rights Amendment in 1921. According to it, men and women should have equal rights in the U.S. and any place under its jurisdiction. Debate on this amendment and political actions in its support of or for its deviation continued throughout the 1940-1960s (Gregory, 2003).

Reasons for the Creation

In 1963, a report by the Commission on the Status of Women at the administration of President John F. Kennedy was issued, which reflected discrimination against women in various areas of American society. Besides the officials, the Commission included representatives of trade unions, women’s organizations and the pre-war Women’s Bureau of the Ministry of Labor. Not supporting the 27th Amendment, the Commission suggested the procedure of filing of claims in the Supreme Court to be the basis for the elimination of discriminatory practices. Thus, in the absence of anti-discrimination legislation, the Supreme Court was attributed a duty to enshrine the principle of equality of men and women as a legal practice (Cihon & Castagnera, 2014). Thus, in 1963, the Equal Pay Act was adopted, becoming the first American legal instrument prohibiting employers from discriminating on the basis of gender. The Act required that the employer pay the same amount of money for work of men and women requiring equal skill, experience, effort, responsibility and performance in equal working conditions (Milkovich, Newman, & Gerhart, 2014).

Impact on Human Resources and Compensation

After the adoption of the Act, in the period from 1960 to 1995, the proportion of working women rose from 35% to over 55%. According to some estimates, an average man’s income fell by 7% between 1973 and 1993, while that of women increased by 11%. In the 1980s, women’s wages began to grow significantly, reaching those of men, but the process slowed down in 1994-1996. Hourly wage of women was about two-thirds of men’s pay in 1973 and 77% in 1997. Today, women comprise 46% of the American workforce, and this figure is still increasing (Gregory, 2003).

Future of the Act

More than fifty years after passing of the Act, it is possible to say that that women’s wages rose significantly, but the wage gap (job gap) is still present, and gender inequality in the labor market still exists. Of course, the Equal Pay Act alone is not enough to eliminate employment discrimination, but in combination with other acts and, most importantly, the Constitution, it provides a legitimate defense from it. Despite the fact that there were attempts to repeal it, the Act should be further retained, as its abolition will result in the violation of civil rights of half of the U.S. population, which is unacceptable.

Influence on the Employer and the Employee

Considering that the Equal Pay Act forbade the employers to discriminate against women in terms of payment, it became the basis for lawsuits to employers. Female employees and especially the women’s organizations benefited from this, starting a broad national campaign to defend women’s rights in the courts. Moreover, they were active in developing the practice of suing in the lower courts for moral damages from discrimination. As a result, in 1967, the U.S. government made a decision in accordance with which it may terminate the contract on the federal order with the employer who violated women’s rights (Cihon & Castagnera, 2014). Thus, the employers had to treat women and men equally in terms of compensation in order to maintain their companies’ competitiveness.

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