What Is Wage Discrimination?

Women often earn less than their male counterparts in the same job.
The most prevalent form of wage discrimination can be seen in gender.
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  • Written By: Haven Esme
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 30 September 2014
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Wage discrimination describes employment practices in which a person, company, or corporation discriminates between employees in the area of pay. Wage discrimination isn’t just confined to annual pay. Overtime pay, bonuses, vacation pay, holiday pay and even retirement benefits can be affected by wage discrimination.

The most prevalent form of wage discrimination can be seen in gender. In numerous cases, companies pay women less than men to work in the same occupations with similar job duties and responsibilities. The wage gap between men and women has been a controversial issue for many years.

For many years, researchers have attempted to determine the reasons women are often paid less than men. Some researchers believe that pay discrimination isn't always the result of sexist beliefs. In some cases, employers may be affected by an unconscious bias when evaluating the expertise and skills between men and women. Numerous studies have revealed that even with identical resumes, men are simply viewed more favorably. Studies have also revealed that income inequalities are not the result of qualifications or choices, but are often simply based on gender.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 covers wage discrimination. The act makes it illegal to discriminate in any aspect of employment. This includes compensation, pay, retirement plans, and fringe benefits.


Another notable piece of legislation against wage discrimination is the Equal Pay Act. Under the Equal Pay Act, employers must give men and women equalivant and fair pay for equal work. Jobs do not need to be identical, however, they must be equal in terms of job content. Despite legislation such as the Equal Pay Act, wage discrimination continues.

Differentiations in wages are permitted based on several factors. For example, a wage differential is legal when the employer bases the difference on seniority. Employers with a bona fide seniority system can pay their employees based on that system.

Employers can also differentiate based on quantity or quality of production. This is especially prevalent in positions in which commissions comprises a percentage of salary. In this case, an individual may be paid more based on a greater volume of sales. Furthermore, an employee’s education, experience and training may also justify a wage differential.

Individuals who are the victim of wage discrimination can file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The commission ensures that employers abide by federal policies and regulations. Additionally, the commission provides legal support to employees who are treated unfairly. Over the years, there have been numerous lawsuits and class action settlements because of wage discrimination.


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