…So the Equal Pay Act of 1963 defines job content using four criteria:
1. Skill (i.e. what you need to know to do a job from an abilities / education / experience / skills and training perspective)
2. Effort (i.e. what you do with what you know from a physical and mental efforts standpoint)
3. Responsibility (the degree to which your job impacts the business… think complexity and scale, direct vs indirect impacts etc.)
4. Working Conditions (defined as physical surroundings and hazards)
If two employees have more or less identical responsibilities under these criteria then the law (very reasonably) requires them to be paid similarly.
In practice, however, most organizations don’t so readily define job duties and responsibilities on an employee basis to this extent. Further, even when they do so, jobs constantly change (sometimes permanently and sometimes on an interim basis). To this point I think most people can point to something they do that wasn’t in the job description when they took on their role. Furthermore, many people can point to some job duty or responsibility they have that is materially different than that of a colleague that is technically in the same job.
My question is: Given the changing nature of work (and laws like the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 that changes the statute of limitations around suing employers for pay discrimination) is it time to re-define (or at least re-assess) the criteria used to define equal pay for equal work? People should be paid competitively for doing the same work. Conversely, there also needs to be a bit of room for nuance.
I don’t think the four criteria defined in the act are necessarily a poor way of differentiating two jobs, but I do think that the law as written doesn’t account for the way that the nature of work has changed over the past 50 years. As technology has improved so too has the pace of change. Workers today must be constantly flexible and willing to take on new / different job duties and responsibilities. Employers can’t stop and re-map a job every time this happens.
…Or maybe I have this wrong (it wouldn’t be the first time).
As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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