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Your Salary and the Obama Equal Pay Bill

Since January, many HR managers and company owners have been shaking in their boots. Why? They have some research to do about how they pay their employees.

If you haven’t heard of it yet, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, often referred to as the Obama equal pay bill, was signed into law this year. This law makes it easier for employees to sue their company if they discover that they have been paid a lower wage than other employees doing the same work because of their minority or protected status – e.g. race, gender, disability, etc.

According to a New York Times article, “Obama Signs Equal-Pay Legislation,” this equal pay bill was signed into law on January 29, 2009. It is named after Lilly Ledbetter, an Alabama woman who discovered near the end of her 19 years as a supervisor for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company plant in Gadsen, Ala., that she had been paid less than her male counterparts for part of her career. Her lawsuit went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where it was thrown out because she, by law, had only 180 days to claim discrimination after she’d received her last paycheck from Goodyear.

Now, employees have six months from their last paycheck to sue for discrimination. What does this mean for you and your employer?

First of all, your employer must do everything possible to pay employees fairly for the work they do and the skills they offer. And, if they don’t do so, they need to document exactly why one employee is getting paid more than another. Employers run the risk of racking up legal fees and a bad reputation, if not.

For you, as an employee, it means that if you suspect you’re being paid less than your counterparts, you have the right to find out why and receive back wages if it’s found that discrimination was involved. It will require sticking your neck out and will take a certain amount of effort on your part, but it may be worth it for you.

In the quest to find out more information about salaries and discrimination, I took a look in the PayScale Career Research Center because there is a very interesting feature there. PayScale keeps track of median salary differences between men and women. Women are considered a minority group in the workplace.

Here are some graphs from PayScale showing how pay varies between men and women for several different careers. Keep in mind that this data only represents what has been reported to PayScale and may not apply in all situations.

Police or Sheriff’s Patrol Officer



Waiter/Waitress



Nanny or Au Pair



Journalist



Civil Engineer


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