Federal Law > Discrimination Laws > The Equal Pay Act of 1963

The Equal Pay Act of 1963


Purpose. The Equal Pay Act was added to the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1963. The Equal Pay Act proscribes gender-based pay discrimination among employees.1 The Equal Pay Act does not prohibit discrimination in hiring, firing or promoting employees. The Act's purpose is that employees doing substantially equal work in the same establishment should be paid equal wages, regardless of sex.

Coverage. The Equal Pay Act applies to employers with two or more employees who are engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce. Exemptions from the Act include certain retail and service establishment employees if more than fifty percent of the dollar volume of the business is transacted within the state in which the establishment is located,2 non-profit, educational or religious organization employees, and organized camps or recreational establishments under certain conditions, agricultural workers, newspaper employees, students, apprentices and other employees exempted under regulations issued by the EEOC, switchboard operators who are employed by an independently-owned public telephone company not having more than 750 stations, and certain casual domestic service workers.3

How to prove. The plaintiff in an Equal Pay Act case must prove that an employer pays or paid different wages to employees of the opposite sex in an establishment when they are doing equal work on jobs, the performance of which requires equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions.4 A plaintiff does not need to prove intent to discriminate in an Equal Pay Act case. An employer does not violate the Equal Pay Act if it can be demonstrated that wage differentials are the result of a bona fide seniority system, merit system, system based on quantity or quality of production, or system based on any factor other than sex.5

Time limits. An employee must file his/her complaint within two years after the cause of action accrues. If the employer acted willfully or intentionally, the suit may be filed within three years of the accrual of the cause of action. There are no mandatory administrative procedures with which an employee must comply before filing a complaint in federal court.6

Jury trial and remedies. A plaintiff has the right to a jury trial in an Equal Pay Act suit.7 A prevailing plaintiff in an Equal Pay Act case is entitled to back pay, liquidated damages in an amount equal to the back pay, reinstatement or promotion if appropriate, and payment of attorney's fees and costs.

  1. 29 U.S.C. § 206(d).

  2. 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(2).

  3. See 29 U.S.C. § 213(a).

  4. 29 U.S.C. § 206(d)(1).

  5. 29 U.S.C. § 206 (d)(1).

  6. 29 U.S.C. § 216(b).

  7. Lorillard v. Pons, 434 U.S. 575 (1978).
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