Education, experience and additional duties might explain pay disparities
- SHRM Connect, SHRM's online community of HR professionals, recently held a discussion on pay disparity and how to approach it. HR director Milagros Ocasio told SHRM that, barring any discriminatory intent on employers’ part, paying two employees different wages for doing the same job isn’t illegal.
- Some pay inequities are justifiable, says SHRM. A higher paid employee might have a certificate, advanced degree or general experience that another worker lacks.
- Following up on a discussion about pay inequities among protected classes of employees, Ocasio told SHRM that a discrimination claim based on pay doesn’t necessarily have merit. But participant Allison Dunham disagreed, arguing that ethical employers don’t let pay inequities persist, regardless of the circumstances.
As hard as HR might try, keeping employees’ pay rates confidential is often a futile task. In the age of social media and review sites like Glassdoor, people are less secretive about personal matters, including their earnings.
On top of that, an employee's right to discuss working conditions — which could include wage disparities — is protected by the National Labor Relations Act under the “concerted activity” provision.
Ocasio said managers can pay two workers with the same title and duties different wage levels simply because they choose to do so, but employers should be cautious about such subjective practices to avoid discrimination claims.