Employment News

Gender Income Inequality Persists Throughout Minnesota

Oct 19, 2012

At the second presidential debate, one of the town hall participants posed a question to the candidates: “In what new ways to you intend to rectify the inequalities in the workplace, specifically regarding females making only 72 percent of what their male counterparts earn?” The question highlights that unequal pay—form a gender discrimination—remains a problem over forty years after the Equal Pay Act became law. So how do female employees in Minnesota compare to male employees? Better than average, but not great.

Ramsey County leads Minnesota in pay equity; it is followed closely by Hennepin County. Female employees in Ramsey County earn, on average, 78 cents per dollar earned by an average employed male. In Hennepin County the difference is 76 cents per dollar. Stevens County leads the state for pay inequity. There, female employees earn less than half of their male counterparts—49 cents per dollar earned by male employees.

Compared to Minnesota workers, female employees in Utah have it the worst. There, the average working woman makes 55 cents for every dollar the average working man makes. The state is followed closely by Wyoming, at 56 cents; Louisiana, at 59 cents; North Dakota, at 62 cents; and Michigan, at 62 cents.

Nationally, pay equality is better in in most metropolitan areas; there, women make about 70 cents to the dollar. The best metropolitan areas for pay equality are Washington, D.C. and Dallas, followed by San Francisco, Los Angeles, Austin, Santa Fe, New York, and Boston. In each city, women make at least 80 cents per dollar that men make.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 is a federal law that amended the Fair Labor Standards Act that is aimed at eliminating wage disparity between the men and women. 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. In 2009, President Obama signed into law, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was introduced in the United States Senate by Hillary Clinton in 2005. The law states that each gender unequal paycheck is a new violation of the Equal Pay Act for the purposes of determining the statute of limitations.

A 2007 Department of Labor study cautioned against drawing conclusions based upon pay inequalities without closer examination of possible reasons for the discrepancies. This study notes, for example, that men as a group earn higher wages in part because men dominate blue collar jobs, which are more likely to require cash payments for overtime work because the jobs are subject to the FLSA. In contrast, women comprise over half of the salaried white collar management workforce that is often exempted from state and federal overtime laws such as the FLSA and the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act or the Minnesota Wage Payment Act.

Minnesota employees who feel that their employer is treating them differently because of their gender may be protected by Minnesota laws in addition to federal laws such as the Equal Pay Act. The Minnesota Human Rights Act prohibits gender discrimination. The attorneys at Baillon Thome Jozwiak & Wanta LLP represent employees in gender and other discrimination cases. If you believe your employer is treating you differently because of your gender, call our office for a free consultation.