The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was enacted to prevent sex discrimination in employee wages. Signed into law on June 10, 1963, the Equal Pay Act was part of John F. Kennedy’s New Frontier. After signing the bill into law, President Kennedy remarked: “While much remains to be done to achieve full equality of economic opportunity – for the average woman worker earns only 60 percent of the average wage for men – this legislation is a significant step forward.”
As an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the Equal Pay Act was part of the same legal framework that establishes federal wage and hour laws.
Equal Pay Act provisions
The EPA provides that the employer may not pay lower wages to employees of one gender than it pays to employees of the other gender, employees within the same establishment for equal work at jobs that require equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and that are performed under similar working conditions.
Significantly, the EPA does not contain an intent requirement within the statutory language. Liability under the EPA is established by meeting the three elements of the prima facie case:
1. different wages are paid to employees of the opposite sex;
2. the employees perform substantially equal work on jobs requiring skill, effort, and responsibility; and
3. the jobs are performed under similar working conditions
If an employee can establish these elements, then the EPA imposes strict liability on employers who engage in wage discrimination on the basis of gender.
1972 broadening of the Equal Pay Act
In 1972, the Education Amendments to the EPA broadened the Act to cover executives, outside salespeople and professionals. This short Bat Girl video from the Department of Labor illustrates the issue.
Current sex discrimination for equal pay status
Despite the progress of the last half-century since passage of the EPA, there hasn’t been much improvement in the last decade in closing the gap further between genders. The most recent research shows women in the United States still make only 80%, on average, of their male counterparts. A host of factors are attributed to the slowing of improvement on this issue.