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What Is the Equal Pay Act of 1963?

Several bills seeking equal pay for men and women failed in Congress during the 1950's before the Equal Pay Act of 1963 was passed.
In 1961, the formation of the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women was led by former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
The Equal Pay Act was signed into law in June 1963 by President John F. Kennedy.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 sought to ensure that women are paid equally to men in the same job.
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  • Last Modified Date: 04 August 2014
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The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was an amendment to the United States’ Fair Labor Standards Act, which is the law that governs hiring, pay, and working conditions for the country’s employees. This act made it illegal to pay men and women different wages for the same work. After the U.S. Congress passed the bill, President John F. Kennedy signed it into law on 10 June 1963. It was effective 11 June 1964 and became the first U.S. law addressing discrimination based on gender.

Until the passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, it was common in the United States for women to be paid significantly less than men for doing the same job. In the 1950s, U.S. women made as little as 59 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. The law covers not only wages, but also overtime, benefits,and other forms of compensation. The provisions of the act cover private and government employees.

Throughout the 1950s, several bills seeking equal pay for women were introduced in the U.S. Congress. On 14 February 1963, Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz submitted a draft bill. With the draft bill, Wirtz sent a letter recommending that Congress pass legislation that ensured equal pay based on gender.

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Also helping to ensure the act would succeed was the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women. Appointed by Kennedy in 1961, the formation of the commission was a response to efforts to try to pass the Equal Rights Amendment and was led by former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The commission issued its report on the status of women in 1963 and endorsed the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 further established gender equality in the workplace. This law made it illegal to hire or fire an employee based on gender. The protections of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 were not extended to professional women until 1972, with professional and administrative positions being excluded in the original legislation.

A case brought under the act must establish two facts. The employee must show that men and women are compensated differently based on gender. The employee must also show that the work and working conditions are the same.

The act was a catalyst for similar legislation in other parts of the world. The Equal Pay Act of 1970 was subsequently passed by the British Parliament. France and New Zealand passed similar legislation in 1972, as did Ireland in 1974.

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Discuss this Article

julies
Post 7

When the Fair Pay Act of 1963 was passed, I think that was a huge step in the right direction for the women of our country.

I think it is sad that so many years later there are many times when this does not apply. Of course this is not always common knowledge, but there are many times when a woman is not paid as much as a man doing the same job.

I don't have any solutions to the problem, but wonder if this will happen as often in the future as well. Most women have the same advantages as men to get a good education so that should not be the reason.

I believe that if a man and woman are doing the same job and they have the same qualifications, they should also receive the same amount of pay.

sunnySkys
Post 6

@strawCake - I see what you're saying, but I'm not sure what the solution to this problem is. Encourage women to go into professions that pay more?

These days, women can pretty much choose to go into whatever field that they want. So the fact that these particular women choose lower paying fields leads me to believe they don't care about the lower wages. Either way, I don't think this has anything to do with discrimination or whatever.

strawCake
Post 5

It is true that even with this law, women still make less than men on average. I think one of the reasons is that jobs that are traditionally done by women are very devalued in our society.

Professions like teaching, which has traditionally been a womens job, don't pay very much. But yet many women are still happy to do it, while men go for higher paying jobs. So the problem now isn't that a male teacher and a female teacher don't make the same, it's that women often go for lower paying jobs.

This is unfortunate, because more families are headed by women than ever. These days, women need to be making as much as men.

cafe41
Post 4

@Oasis11 - I know what you are saying, but I also think that if a discrepancy exists it might be because men often are more aggressive negotiators which are why they may earn higher salaries than some women do.

Some women are more timid when it comes to asking for what they want which is not the fault of the company. They have to watch the bottom line and if someone is willing to do the job for less than the company shouldn’t be blamed for the discrepancy.

There are really all sorts of reasons why some people earn more than others. Sometimes a new college graduate can join a company and earn more than some people that have been with the company for a while because of their college degree, so I think that during any salary negotiations it is up to the person being hired to do their homework on what the going salary is for a person in that position and not be afraid to ask for more. You really owe it to yourself.

oasis11
Post 3

The equal pay act of 1963 history is rich and an important moment for our nation. Despite its efforts I still think that there is a discrepancy between the salaries that men and women are paid for the same job.

I think that the reason why some companies get away with it is because salary information is supposed to be kept confidential so many people don’t realize that this form of discrimination may still be taking place.

I also don’t know how a company would be caught doing this unless someone found out about the measure and filed a lawsuit. I think that only government jobs post the salaries for a given position ahead of time and they basically start everyone at the same pay based on your specific rank.

MissDaphne
Post 2

@rugbygirl - I agree with you. I used to teach at a private school in the Deep South where there was no published pay scale. But the general scuttlebut around school was that the men all made more.

I know that I was hired at the same time as a man about my age. I taught English, and he taught a more specialized subject. I had a master's, he didn't. He made several thousand dollars a year more than me. Now, they probably would have said it was because it was harder to recruit in his subject, and maybe that was part of it... but it was a big difference, and I was actually *more* qualified.

Yeah, it still happens. When you realize that less than twenty years ago, before the Family and Medical Leave Act, it was actually legal to fire someone for getting sick (or taking maternity leave, as long as you fired anyone who needed medical leave_, you realize that this country still has a way to go for real compassion.

rugbygirl
Post 1

Equal pay for equal work is great in theory, but in practice, it's hard to enforce. Many, if not most, companies have rules against discussing how much you make with your coworkers, plus of course we just don't do that culturally. But if you don't know how much they make, how do you know whether it's fair?

I used to work at an accounting firm that did payroll taxes for a number of local businesses. At the time, minimum wage was $5.15. I noticed that at a sandwich shop, the boys were being paid six an hour, but the girls were getting minimum wage. Seriously, *teenagers.* So the old (and wrong) argument that men are the breadwinners, so they need more, didn't even begin to apply!

We've made so much progress since an era when it took a law to remind people that women shouldn't be paid less just because they were women. But there's a long, long way left to go.

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