Visibility and Value: The Role of Job Evaluation in Assuring Equal Pay for Women

Article excerpt

Using job-evaluation schemes for women means we must begin by recognizing that most women do work that is different from that of most men. Women's work requires different kinds of skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions within different kinds of organizational structures. Unlike most male jobs, much of women's work involves switching from one level of task to another level and from person to person, often in ways that involve different methods of communication. It usually involves the provision of comfort, emotional support, and care. It frequently involves coordination and cooperation with others, under conditions where women have little formal authority. In many cases, precisely because it is women who do the work, the actual responsibility is very different from what is formally defined.... Existing schemes do not, and most cannot, capture these aspects of women's work.(1)

INTRODUCTION

In the 1970s, feminist and labor advocates won substantial victories around the world by obtaining legislation that guaranteed women the right to earn pay equal to that of their male counterparts.(2) During this initial phase of the pay equity movement, employers, prompted by the threat of lawsuits, sought to ensure that women and men performing essentially the same jobs or "like work" were receiving the same wages. By the mid 1980s, several factors, including the persistence of the gap between male and female earnings, created pressure to adopt a concept of pay equity known as "comparable worth,"(3) prompting litigation in several countries to broaden the scope of employer liability for gendered pay inequities. Although several years have passed, judicial and legislative involvement in the pay equity area shows no signs of abating, leaving employers' obligations under pay equity laws around the world in a state of considerable flux.(4)

As a result, multinational corporations find themselves subject to widely divergent and occasionally incomprehensible sets of obligations that they must resolve to comply with the pay equity laws of the countries in which they operate. The purpose of this Note is to describe and analyze practical examples of the types of legal pay equity regimes currently in force. In particular, this Note has chosen to focus on the pay equity regimes of Ontario, Great Britain and the United States. Although employers in each of these regions are prohibited from discriminating on the basis of gender in the wages paid to their employees, the principle of pay equity varies greatly among the three legal systems, creating substantial compliance burdens for multinational corporations.

Specifically, this Note focuses on the role of job evaluation in determining whether pay equity has been achieved under each of these regimes. From the perspective of the employer as well as the pay equity advocate, the role of job evaluation in a pay equity regime is extremely important for two reasons. First, job evaluation is the primary mechanism for comparing the values of jobs with different work requirements. Therefore, to the extent that a legal system permits women to claim pay equity with men who are not performing identical jobs, job evaluation is the mechanism for comparing the relative worth of these jobs and whether they deserve equal compensation. Second, job evaluation has great potential for reducing the wage gap between women and men precisely because the inequity is so pervasive. Throughout Ontario, Great Britain, and the United States, job evaluation is one of the principle tools used by employers and unions to provide the raw data upon which wage determinations are based.(5) As a result, job evaluation has become a central issue in both the delineation of female employees' rights to pay equity as well as employer defenses to liability.

Ontario's Pay Equity Act,(6) which requires substantive administrative and judicial review of mandatory job evaluation schemes for evidence of gender bias (i. …