How Do I Know If I’m Being Paid Less Than My Male Counterpart?

The term “pay equity” has been heavily used in the workplace, media and culture in the last several decades, especially from women who feel they are not being paid equally. Put simply, pay equity is being paid equally regardless of your gender or race. Female workers should be paid the same as their male colleagues if they are doing “substantially similar work” when viewed together with your skill, effort and responsibility, and performed under similar working conditions. Women make up nearly half the workforce, yet they currently earn only $.77 to every dollar that men are paid in the United States today.

We often hear from women who are concerned they are being paid less than their male colleagues. Here are steps to follow to determine if you are being paid less than your male counterpart.

Learn about the law. It’s not possible for you, as an employee, to know exactly why one person is being paid differently than another. That being said, if you are both doing the same work and you are being paid less than a male counterpart, this may constitute a violation of the California Equal Pay Act. Even if the employer did not intend to discriminate, it is illegal for men and women to be paid differently for the same work.

Do research. If you believe you are getting less pay than your colleague, it’s important to do research and find facts and data to back up your claim. Taking into consideration your education or skill level, years of experience, and other determining factors, here are suggestions for researching a fair and equal salary and compensation package:

  • Talk to your coworkers who are doing similar work and ask if they will share how much they are being paid.
  • Ask friends and colleagues if they will share their current salary range if they work in the same or substantially similar position as you but at different employer.
  • Seek information from industry associations and networking events. Many industry associations perform surveys that are shared with their members on the current state of the industry, including salary ranges. Engage with attendees at networking events and ask what the standard salary is for the same position. You may also be able to post questions to a listserv that can be asked and/or answered anonymously.
  • Use online resources and databases organized by job title or industry to find data on salary and compensation packages.
  • Write down facts about your own work, such as your performance record, sales milestones, goals achieved, and any other noteworthy accomplishments.

Talk with your boss or Human Resources Department. If you believe you are not being paid the same as your male co-workers for doing similar work, consider taking the following steps.

1.     Talk to your supervisor or the human resources department to ask how your pay is calculated. You may want to suggest your company “audit” the pay of coworkers doing the same or similar work to find out if you are being paid equally. You might also consider following up in writing with your request to determine whether you are being paid the same as your coworkers for doing the same or similar work.

2.     Talk to your union representative, if you have one, and ask the representative about any information on pay structure or how your pay is calculated. You can also request your union investigate if you are being paid less for doing the same or similar work.

3.     File a claim with the California Labor Commissioner’s Office at and have it investigated.

4.     Consult with an attorney to determine if you should file a lawsuit.

The attorneys of Haeggquist & Eck, LLP have successfully resolved a wide range of cases involving gender discrimination and pay equity. We understand what you are going through and we know how to help.

At Haeggquist & Eck, pursuing justice on behalf of our clients is the top priority — whether it’s fighting for fair pay, against discrimination and harassment, or battling defective products and services. If you live and work in California and are being subjected unequal pay at work, call at (619) 468-5222 to schedule for a free consultation with one of the experienced employment attorneys at the law firm of Haeggquist & Eck.

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