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Rights To Equal Pay Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 3185 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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It used to be very common for employers to pay men more than women even when they do exactly the same job. Before the 1950s, most Canadians accepted that men should be paid more than women for doing the same work because men were supposed to be responsible for supporting their families and women were not. Men were the “breadwinners” and women were responsible for running the home.

But times changed.

After the Second World War, many countries agreed that it was very important to create an international agreement that people, regardless of what country they live in, should be protected from discrimination and should have the same basic human rights.

The United Nations created the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, and Canada was one of the many countries that signed it. One of the rights in the Declaration was:

“Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.”

During the 1950s, the federal government and the provinces passed equal pay laws to create this right in Canada. The federal government passed An Act to Promote Equal Pay for Female Employees in 1956. This law also applied in the Northwest Territories.

Most of these laws prohibited employers from paying women less than men for doing the same work, and most were part of employment or labour standards legislation.

Because of the large number of AmRameshn women taking jobs in the war industries during World War II, the National War Labor Board urged employers in 1942 to voluntarily make “adjustments which equalize wage or salary rates paid to females with the rates paid to males for comparable quality and quantity of work on the same or similar operations.”

Until the early 1960s, newspapers published separate job listings for men and women. Jobs were categorized according to sex, with the higher level jobs listed almost exclusively under “Help Wanted-Male.” In some cases the ads ran identical jobs under male and female listings-but with separate pay scales. Separate, of course, meant unequal: between 1950 and 1960, women with full time jobs earned on average between 59-64 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earned in the same job.

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It wasn’t until the passage of the Equal Pay Act on June 10, 1963 (effective June 11, 1964) that it became illegal to pay women lower rates for the same job strictly on the basis of their sex. Demonstrable differences in seniority, merit, the quality or quantity of work, or other considerations might merit different pay, but gender could no longer be viewed as a drawback on one’s resumé.

Unfortunately, this right was not very helpful. It was very hard for women to use this right to make sure that they actually got paid as much as men for doing essentially the same work. Sometimes, the difference in pay was not in wages, but in benefits or bonuses, and employers could “hide” a difference in pay by calling it a benefit or a bonus. Sometimes, the work performed by a female employee was not completely the same as the work performed by a male employee. For example, often “male” jobs had different job titles than “female” jobs. Employers could argue that the difference in job title meant that the work was not the same. Or the male job might have slightly different duties. Any small difference in the work could allow an employer to pay men and women very differently.

By the 1970s, people were talking about a different idea of equal pay. Women were still earning a lot less than men. More and more single mothers were trying to support their children on their own, and more and more women and mothers were living in poverty. In response to these problems, some people said that the problem was not so much that women and men were being paid differently for doing similar work, but that men and women do not do similar work at all. They work in entirely different occupations. For example, more women than men work in nursing, more men than women work as mechanics. They said that problem is that “women’s work” is just not considered as valuable as “men’s work” simply because it is done by women and that leads to low pay.


Two landmark court cases served to strengthen and further define the Equal Pay Act:

Schultz v. Wheaton Glass Co. (1970), U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Ruled that jobs need to be “substantially equal” but not “identical” to fall under the protection of the Equal Pay Act. An employer cannot, for example, change the job titles of women workers in order to pay them less than men.

Corning Glass Works v. Brennan (1974), U.S. Supreme Court

Ruled that employers cannot justify paying women lower wages because that is what they traditionally received under the “going market rate.” A wage differential occurring “simply because men would not work at the low rates paid women” was unacceptable.

The blatant discrimination apparent in these court cases seems archaic today, as does the practice of sex-segregated job listings. The workplace has changed radically in the decades since the passage of the Equal Pay Act.

The right to equal pay for work of equal value is a response to this concern. It prevents employers from paying work done by men differently than work done by women, even when the work is dissimilar, if the work is of equal value to the employer. This right is much more complicated than the right to equal pay for the same or substantially similar work because it requires a way of figuring out when dissimilar jobs have the same value to the employer.

Others, like Ontario and Quebec, have enacted special laws, called pay equity laws that require all employers to take positive steps to make sure that they pay male and female employees equally for work of equal value, even if no one makes a complaint.

Still other jurisdictions, like Saskatchewan and Manitoba, have pay equity or equal laws or policies that apply only to public sector employers and employees. This reflects a belief that public sector employers are better able than private sector employers (especially small private sector employers) to take on the complicated task of figuring out what work in the organization is equal in value.

But what has not changed radically, however, is women’s pay. The wage gap has narrowed, but it is still significant. Women earned 59% of the wages men earned in 1963; in 2012 they earned 80.9% of men’s wages-an improvement of about half a penny per dollar earned every year. Why is there still such a disparity?

Articles supporting this clause:

Article 39(d) in the Constitution of India 1949:

39.Certain principles of policy to be followed by the State: The State shall, in particular, direct its policy towards securing

(a) that the citizens, men and women equally, have the right to an adequate means to livelihood;

(b) that the ownership and control of the material resources of the community are so distributed as best to subserve the common good;

(c) that the operation of the economic system does not result in the concentration of wealth and means of production to the common detriment;

(d) that there is equal pay for equal work for both men and women;

(e) that the health and strength of workers, men and women, and the tender age of children are not abused and that citizens are not forced by economic necessity to enter avocations unsuited to their age or strength;

(f) that children are given opportunities and facilities to develop in a healthy manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity and that childhood and youth are protected against exploitation and against moral and material abandonment

Article 15 in The Constitution Of India 1949:

15. Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth

(1) The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them

(2) No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to

(a) access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and palaces of public entertainment; or

(b) the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public

(3) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children

(4) Nothing in this article or in clause ( 2 ) of Article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes


The issues regarding “not” equally paying men and women for equal work are-

It is a human rights issue-

If the work of a woman is valued less simply because she is a woman,

her individual dignity is injured.

It is an economic development issue-

To promote equal treatment is equivalent to promote the nation’s

productive potential.

It is a human resources issue-

Increasing salaries of undervalued workers can be more profitable as

it increases morale and productivity, as well as reduces turnover and

attracts talent.

Concept of Equal Pay:

1. “Equal pay for equal work”

This implies that men and women receive equal pay for the same or

similar work.

2.”Equal pay for work of equal value”

This implies that men and women receive equal pay for different jobs

Discrimination based on sex:

1. Stereotypes and prejudices with regard to women’s work;

2. Occupational segregation by gender;

3. Traditional undervaluing of women’s job;

4. Traditional job evaluation methods designed on the basis of

requirements of male-dominated jobs;

5.Weaker bargaining power on the part of female workers.

When is unequal pay justified:

Suppose there are two employees working for the same organization-Ramesh and Suresh.

1-If Ramesh had more experience or a higher educational degree than Suresh, their employer would not have to give them equal wages. Their jobs would not be considered substantially equal because they have different levels of education or experience.

2-Their employer could pay Suresh a higher wage if Ramesh works in Gomti Nagar, North Carolina and Suresh works in New York City. Employee must generally work in the same establishment for them to be considered to have substantially equal jobs.

3-If Ramesh supervises other employees but Suresh does not, their employer could pay Ramesh at a higher rate of pay. Ramesh has significantly more responsibility than Suresh does and therefore their jobs can not be considered substantially equal.

4-If Suresh must travel from job site to job site everyday, while Ramesh’s job allows her to work in the home office everyday, their jobs differ substantially and Suresh may receive a higher salary.

Gender Pay Gap in Numbers:

In most countries, women’s wages for work of equal value represent on average between 70-90% of men’s.

In 2010, the OECD reported a gender wage gap in the medium full-time earnings of 17.6% across its members.

In the EU, women earn on average 17.5% less than men during their lifetimes.

In 2009 in the US, the women’s to men’s earnings ratio for 25-34 yr olds was 89% and for 45-54 yr olds was 74%.

In case you thought the gender gap is restricted to the lower levels of workers, a survey done by the World Economic Forum (WEF) last year showed that there is a yawning gender gap in the corporate sector too. The average annual income of a woman is $1,185, less than a third of a man’s $3,698 in corporate India.

Articles Published Regarding Such Discrimination:

Traditionally, women have not enjoyed equal access to basic human rights, protections, resources, and services. Unfortunately, gender inequality is still present in every society and remains as a huge barrier for the world.

There are also two terms which explain different types of discrimination and give us courage to further push for women’s rights. First, sexism is a form of discrimination and stereotyping that oppresses women. Second, patriarchy is a system where males are dominant. It is so common in many societies and also within families. Consequently, some violence against women is seen mostly in these types of communities and families.

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Recent acts of violence pertaining to women’s rights are: violence within family, rape, sexual abuse, torture, etc. Some of the other issues commonly asked to be recognized as part of women’s rights are: bodily integrity and autonomy, the right to vote (universal suffrage), hold public office, work, fair salary or equal pay, own property and to enter into legal contracts, education, serve in the military, to have marital, parental and religious rights.

Efforts done and progress all over the world:

In India, the Constitution recognized the principle of ‘Equal Pay for Equal Work’ for both men and women, and ‘Right to Work’ through Article 39(d) and 41. As far back as 1976 the Equal Remuneration Act came into effect and yet unequal pay dogs working women in India. From small businesses to large organisations to the unorganized sector, women are paid lesser wages than men for the same work.

There have been major international efforts focused at eradicating these inequalities. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) is the main international human rights treaty for women adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979. In The Convention CEDAW, it is often described as an international bill of rights for women. The detailed document defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up an agenda for international action to end such discrimination.

In 2010, more than four decades after the US had enacted a law in 1963 to end wage discrimination on the basis of sex, President Barack Obama had to bring in yet another legislation to give women the right to seek remedy against wage discrimination since, in the US women earn only 77 cents per dollar earned by men. In 1963 women were paid 59 cents per every dollar earned by men. Obviously, the progress from 59 cents to 77 cents has been a slow crawl to say the least.

Advantages of implementing such a clause:

More effective use of skills.

Positive impact on female workers.

Better human resource management throughout the organization.

Better working relationships among employees.

Positive effects on the reputation and attractiveness of the business.

Success Stories Due To This Clause:

To prohibit discrimination on account of sex in the payment of wages by employers engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce.” [S. 1409] (Avalon Project, 2006) Prior to the Equal Pay Act, men and women were not treated fairly within regards to wages. It was not unheard of for a man to make twice the salary for doing the same job a woman was capable of doing. With the passing of the Equal Pay Act, women are now a driving force in some of the biggest and most successful companies in the world.

Anne Mulcahy, the CEO of the Xerox Corporation, led her company to over $15 million in revenue for 2005 with a 13% profit increase since 2004. Xerox ranks number 4 in the list of Fortune 500 computer and office equipment companies, surpassing powerhouses such as Apple, Pitney Bowes, and Gateway, companies all with men at the helm. (Fortune 500, 2006) Without the enactment of the Equal Pay Act, Anne Mulcahy may never have gotten the chance to advance to her current position.

Talent Tree, a staffing company based out of Houston, Texas, is run by a woman by the name of Brenda Harris. Brenda began as CEO of Talent Tree in 2004 after working for the company for 21 years, beginning as a Staffing Manager. Since Brenda has been at the helm of Talent Tree, the company has seen its first profit in several years and was able to afford a company paid trip to Mexico to reward the branches of Talent Tree who contributed to the success of the company in 2005. Brenda has brought back a sense of family and teamwork to Talent Tree with strong but fair leadership, and because of her, the company is on the road to a success it has not seen in some time. (Talent Tree Names New President, 2004) Brenda has also made Talent Tree an excellent company to work for where diversity is strong and women are treated as equal to men, with compensation decided based on skill and experience, not based on gender, race, or any other minority factor.

Although the Equal Pay Act of 1963 has allowed women such as Brenda Harris and Anne Mulcahy to become successful in what has been known as a man’s world, there is still discrimination against women and many other minorities when it comes to wages. The Equal Pay Act has, in recent years, been the influence for other similar laws such as The Fair Pay Act (S. 840) and the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 841) to help combat this discrimination. The Paycheck Fairness Act holds penalties for violations of compensation laws. Unfortunately, some employers do not take these laws seriously as the penalties are not that severe. Changing the penalties to have a more detrimental affect on employers who violate compensation laws will hopefully help to decrease the violations. (Federal Legislation, n.d.).


Laws are meant to protect society from unjust and unfair behavior, and the passing of such clauses as “Equal Pay for Equal Work for Both Men and Women” has done an outstanding job of protecting women and other minorities from being treated unfairly in the workplace with regard to wages and other compensation. Women are just as capable as men of making successful contributions to companies and therefore have every right to receive equal compensation. This law ensures that compensation is fair and equal to everyone. Although there have been a number of violations over the years, the violations are few and far between and will only decrease as more and more companies are realizing that it takes talent and skill, not gender, to be a success.



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