A few states like Michigan have recently taken steps to close the gender pay gap. Last year, Michigan’s governor entered an executive order that makes it unlawful for state departments and agencies to ask about a job applicant’s salary history before making an offer of compensation. The idea behind equal pay laws such as this one is to prevent employers from basing their offers of compensation on an applicant’s past salary, which will generally be lower for women than men.
In California, a state whose equal pay act applies to public and private employers, three women recently had a victory in court in a gender discrimination lawsuit. The plaintiffs, who filed a class-action lawsuit on behalf of more than 4,000 women, said that their employer paid male employees more money than women. In order to proceed as a class action rather than on their own individual claims alone, the women had to show some commonality with the other women and typicality of their claims.
The plaintiffs were successful in their bid to proceed as a class action, meaning that it will be easier for a jury to decide whether the company violated the state’s equal pay law by looking at a sample of records presented. A jury will also decide whether the job duties and positions of the female employees were substantially similar to those of men who received higher pay.
Failure to pay equal wages to men and women is only one example of workplace discrimination against women. Claims of gender discrimination can be brought as a class action or individually if the discrimination was aimed at only one person or if there are an insufficient number of employees to make a class. Individuals who feel like they have been discriminated against in terms of wages or otherwise may want to consult with an employment law attorney.