“Dwarves show up a lot in fantasy genre, but when they do, they’re these sorts of caricatures, woodland creatures or the punchline of jokes,” Dinklage says. “Nobody gives them a romance. Nobody gives them fully formed personalities, and Tyrion is one of the richest characters I have ever come across. He’s a human being.”
— Peter Dinklage
So I’ve been reading a lot in the news lately about how women are being paid less than men on the basis of their genders alone. As troubling as this concept is, it worries me significantly less than the Tumblr responses I have come across addressing the issue.
I have seen multiple posts lamenting the complete lack of legal recourse offered to women in these situations, which saddens me deeply. The truth of the matter is that there are a multitude of powerful legal options that all women need to know they have in these situations. However, these legal options are surprisingly not common knowledge, and when they are mentioned they are often misinterpreted. I’m going to try and summarize what I’ve learned from my Honors Business Law class this semester to try and clarify the powers, options and rights that all women, or members of any other protected class, need to know that they have in these situations.
Firstly, addressing wage discrimination:
I have read multiple statistics outlining how women are making significantly less money in certain fields than are their equally qualified male counterparts. This is an obvious issue. However, it is also completely illegal under the Equal Pay Act of 1963.The Equal Pay Act of 1963 outlines that women and men will receive equal pay for equal work. How does one determine what is considered “Substantial Equal”. Well by the "Substantially Equal Test", of course! How does it work? Well it’s really pretty straightforward actually, it works like this. The plaintiff of the lawsuit must simply prove that the work they do is substantially equal to the work done by that of their higher paid male counterpart.
If you can prove that you are being paid less money for substantially equal work, then you have fulfilled your burden of proof as the plaintiff of the lawsuit. If you have met that burden of proof, the defense will be hard pressed to explain their actions, and will typically lose their case.
As gender is considered a protected class beneath the Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act, you may also sue your place of employment for Disparate Treatment. If you are suing for disparate treatment you have a burden of proof you must meet in order to proceed with your lawsuit. This course of legal action is important for women in the workforce because it covers non-pay related issues that women can still be discriminated against in, such as being hired or promoted. It is often said that women have a harder time getting promotions than men, but that is also illegal, however it is illegal under a different set of laws which I will now explain.
Denying a woman a promotion or a job offer simply on the basis of her gender is illegal beneath the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is a form of discrimination known as Disparate Treatment, which is actionable against under current law. Basically, if your employer is denying you a promotion or other tangible employment benefits based on your gender, take them to court.
In order to proceed with a disparate treatment suit, you must prove that:
1. You are a member of a protected class. If you are a woman, you are protected as gender is covered. Please note, sexual orientation and gender identity are currently not considered protected classes beneath the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is a huge problem. You can sue your employer for paying you less for being a woman, but you can’t do the same if they are doing so because you are transgendered or on the basis of your sexual orientation, at least not under the Civil Rights Act. Obviously this an issue that needs to be addressed, and the sooner we can get these demographics protected beneath the Civil Rights Act, the better.
2. You are qualified for the job or promotion: You must simply prove that your qualifications were as good as or better than those of the person they ended up hiring. If you are qualified, you obviously meet this requirement. If you aren’t qualified, it wasn’t discrimination as they were hiring the best candidate, and you lose your lawsuit. Be careful with this step, and I highly encourage seeking adequate legal counsel that can help you ensure that you have met your burden of proof.
3. You applied for the job or promotion and were rejected. This is pretty self explanatory, I think you all understand what this means. You didn’t get the job.
4. Another person, who is not in your protected class, got the job. This is also easy to prove, did they hire a male after they rejected you? Did they give a man the promotion? If yes than you have fulfilled all of the requirements of your burden of proof and are a in a very good position to file suit and take legal action. If they hired another woman, I don’t really know what to say because that’s not discrimination. HOWEVER, these protections apply to all protected classes. That being said, if you are discriminated against for your religion, color, national origin, gender or race, you are also protected under these laws. However you are not protected beneath the equal pay act of 1963, which I think is kind of silly. The equal pay act of 1963 makes it illegal to pay women less for work done by men, but it actually doesn’t make it illegal to pay blacks less for equal work done by whites. However, you can sue for wage discrimination under Disparate Treatment anyway, and the Civil Rights Act is typically going to be a stronger offense than the Equal Pay Act anyway.
Finally, if you have met all of these requirements, the court will now move to examine the defenses defense. In order to prove that they are not guilty of discrimination, the defense must prove that there was a legitimate business reason that you were not hired. If they can do so, they will win the case. However, if you were truly discriminated against on the basis of your gender alone, it will be very difficult for them to convince the court that they had a good reason. The court must be convinced that they were acting fairly, if they can’t be convinced of the defenses non-discriminatory hiring practices, you will win your case.
TLDR: People, if you are being discriminated against at work by being paid less than your co-workers on the basis of your gender, race, color, national origin or religion, you can take legal action. If you are actually being discriminated against, as in they can’t come up with a legitimate explanation for another reason for why they didn’t hire you, you are in a very good position to win your lawsuit.
PLEASE NOTE: Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation are currently NOT protected classes, which is all the better reason to spread this information. The sooner our LGBQT brothers and sister are considered members of a protected class, the sooner they will be afforded the same legal rights and protections that we have been. I hope this has been helpful!
Your friendly neighborhood Aggie,
Source: Honors Business Law Classes, Texas A&M
LINKS FOR MORE READING: