An Equal Pay Checkup For Family Employers And Staff

Mississippi is set to become the 50th state to require that women and men receive equal pay for equal work.

A conference committee in the Mississippi state legislature will review two equal pay bills, H.B. 770 and S.B. 2451.

Mississippi is the only state in the U.S. that does not currently have state laws requiring equal pay for women. According to U.S. Census data, 51.5 percent of Mississippi's population is female, and women aged 16 and older make up more than half the state's workforce. Jennifer Kay "Last Equal-Pay Holdout Debates Treating Men and Women the Same" (Feb. 11, 2022).

Commentary and Checklist

In addition to the state laws addressing equal pay, the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963, which is an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act, prohibits wage discrimination based on sex. It offers protection to both men and women and applies to virtually all employers.

Pay differentials between sexes are not allowed when the staff are performing “substantially equal” (not identical) jobs. This is determined with an analysis of:

·      Skill – which includes the experience, ability, education, and training required to perform the job

  • Effort - the amount of physical or mental exertion needed to perform the job

  • Responsibility - the degree of accountability required to perform the job

  • Working conditions - physical surroundings like temperature and ventilation and hazards

Work with your legal counsel to audit your pay practices for staff. If you find practices inconsistent with the law, remedy the pay differential by raising the pay of the lower paid staff member.

There can be legal justifications for pay differences between staff members of the opposite sex performing substantially equal work.

What are the justifications?

  • If you have a seniority system that rewards staff based on length of employment
  • If you have a merit system that rewards staff for exceptional job performance
  • If you have an incentive system that pays staff based on the quality or quantity of their work, or
  • If you can identify a factor other than sex that is related to job performance or business operations, such as paying a shift differential to staff on less desirable shifts.
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