Current Legal and Legislative Issues
The principal federal laws prohibiting sex-based discrimination in employment compensation are the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Of these two acts the Equal Pay Act is considered to be much more explicit in its discussion of sex-based pay differentials. The basic standard of the Equal Pay Act is "equal pay for equal work." The Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d), requires employers to pay men and women the same wages if they work in the same establishment, under the same working conditions, performing equal work, which is defined as work involving equal skills, effort, and responsibility. Pay differences are permitted, however, on the bases of length of service, merit, quality or quantity of production or a differential based upon any factor other than sex.
Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(h), however, does not deal specifically with the issue of sex-based pay discrepancies, but rather sets forth a general ban on employment practices that discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, or national origin. It has not been until recently that the courts have attempted to reconcile the broad prohibitive language of Title VII with the Equal Pay Act's oversight in the area of pay compensation. Controversy has developed over whether Title VII goes beyond the Equal Pay Act