Congress Passes the Equal Pay Act

The Equal Pay Act of 1963, Pub.

L. No. 88-38, 77 Stat. 56, (June 10, 1963) codified at 29 U.S.C. § 206(d), is a United States federal law amending the Fair Labor Standards Act, aimed at abolishing wage disparity based on sex. In passing the bill, Congress denounces sex discrimination for the following reasons:

It depresses wages and living standards for employees necessary for their health and efficiency;
it prevents the maximum utilization of the available labor resources
it tends to cause labor disputes, thereby burdening, affecting, and obstructing commerce;
it burdens commerce and the free flow of goods in commerce; and
it constitutes an unfair method of competition.

The law provides (in part) that:

No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section [section 206 of title 29 of the United States Code] shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs[,] the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions, except where such payment is made pursuant to (i) a seniority system; (ii) a merit system; (iii) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (iv) a differential based on any other factor other than sex

In 1963, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act ("EPA" or the "Act") as an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act[3], to "prohibit discrimination on account of sex in the payment of wages by employers." Congress included within the text of the EPA a clear and concise policy statement and briefly described the problems it was intended to remedy. The clear statement of congressional intent and policy guiding the EPA’s enactment indicate the Congressional desire to fashion a broad remedial framework to protect employees from wage discrimination on the basis of sex. The Supreme Court has expressly recognized the view that the EPA must be broadly construed to achieve Congress’ goal of remedying gender discrimination. Congress passed the EPA out of "concern for the weaker bargaining position of women" to provide a remedy to discriminatory wage structures that reflect "an ancient but outmoded belief that a man, because of his role in society, should be paid more than a woman."The EPA protects both men and women. It also protects administrative, professional and executive employees who are exempt under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

The EPA, Section 206(d)(1), prohibits "employer[s] ... [from] discriminat[ing] … on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees [...] at a rate less than the rate [paid] to employees of the opposite sex [...] for equal work on jobs [requiring] equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions[.]" To establish a prima facie case under the EPA, an employee must show that:

1. different wages are paid to employees of the opposite sex;
2. the employees perform substantially equal work on jobs requiring equal skill, effort and responsibility; and
3. the jobs are performed under similar working conditions.

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.

It is important to note that the EPA does not contain any intent requirement within the statutory language. Liability under the EPA is established by meeting the three elements of the prima facie case, regardless of the intention of the employer. As such, the EPA imposes strict liability on employers who engage in wage discrimination on the basis of gender.

Once a plaintiff meets their heavy burden and establishes a prima facie case of gender discrimination under the EPA, then the defendant may only avoid liability by proving the existence of one of four statutory affirmative defenses.[6] The EPA’s four affirmative defenses allows unequal pay for equal work when the wages are set "pursuant to (i) a seniority system; (ii) a merit system; (iii) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (iv) ... any other factor other than sex[.]"

Equal Pay Act of 1963 - EPA - 29 U.S. Code Chapter 8 § 206(d)
The Equal Pay Act (part of the Fair Labor Standards Act) prohibits wage discrimination by employers and labor organizations based solely on sex.

(d) Prohibition of sex discrimination
(1) No employer having employees subject to any provisions
of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment
in which such employees are employed, between employees
on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such
establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays
wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment
for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires
equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are
performed under similar working conditions, except where
such payment is made pursuant to
(i) a seniority system;
(ii) a merit system;
(iii) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality
of production; or
(iv) a differential based on any other factor other than sex:
Provided, That an employer who is paying a wage rate
differential in violation of this subsection shall not,
in order to comply with the provisions of this subsection,
reduce the wage rate of any employee.
(2) No labor organization, or its agents, representing
employees of an employer having employees subject to
any provisions of this section shall cause or attempt
to cause such an employer to discriminate against an
employee in violation of paragraph (1) of this subsection.
(3) For purposes of administration and enforcement, any amounts
owing to any employee which have been withheld in violation
of this subsection shall be deemed to be unpaid minimum
wages or unpaid overtime compensation under this chapter.
(4) As used in this subsection, the term organization
means any organization of any kind, or any agency or
employee representation committee or plan, in which employees
participate and which exists for the purpose, in whole or in
part, of dealing with employers concerning grievances, labor
disputes, wages, rates of pay, hours of employment, or
conditions of work.