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Gender equity & compliance with wage laws

Gender equity & compliance with wage laws

By Ali Tozier, Associate

You may have recently watched Megan Rapinoe and the US women’s soccer team demand equal pay and wondered what law exists in Maine relating to pay. Did you know about Maine’s Equal Pay Law? This law makes it unlawful for any employer (of any size) doing business in Maine to pay an employee less due to that employee’s gender. The law also prohibits employers from inquiring into the salary history of prospective employees until after an offer for employment has been made. However, the law does allow employees to ask about each other’s salaries, and because employers are prohibited from restricting the sharing of this information, employees may believe they are being paid too little compared to other employees of the opposite sex once they start comparing paychecks. 

How do you know if you’re being discriminated against?

If you think you are being paid less than a member of the opposite sex for the same job, you may have a claim under Maine law for unequal pay. 

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Does the employee with the higher pay have a different job title?
  • Has the other employee worked for the business or been in the job longer?
  • Does the other employee have more training, education or experience related to the job?
  • Is there a merit system in place that rewards employees with promotion, pay increases or other advantages on the basis of their abilities or qualifications?
  • Does the other employee have more responsibilities in comparison to my own responsibilities?

If you can’t answer yes to at least one of these questions, you may want to consider reaching out to an employment law attorney about filing an Equal Pay Complaint. The employment law attorney can analyze your situation and help you decide the best course forward to ensure compliance with the law.

Keep in mind – if comparing yourself to other employees, your jobs must be comparable in work, skill, effort and responsibility. Employers may not reduce any employee’s salary in order to comply with the Equal Pay Law, and may not discharge or discriminate against any employee for insisting on the compliance of the Equal Pay Law. 

Compliance with Wage Laws

Private employers with 100 employees or more are required to collect detailed data on the compensation and hours worked of employees at their company. This information must be sorted by job category, pay band, race, ethnicity, and gender, and then reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. 

Regardless of the size of the company, it is important for all employers – and employees – to track every hour worked by hourly employees to ensure compliance with Maine’s overtime law. Currently, Maine’s minimum wage is $11/hour, and employers are required to pay overtime at a rate of 1 ½ times the employee’s regular rate of pay for any time worked in excess of 40 hours per week. If you believe you are working overtime without being paid for it, be sure to document hours worked and check them against the timesheet your employer is using.

Some employees are exempt from receiving the minimum wage or overtime pay in accordance with the Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA). However, there are certain employees that may still be entitled to overtime pay even if the employee is paid a salary, instead of an hourly rate. If you are a salaried employee and you perform manual work, do not have a professional degree, and/or your work does not relate to management of the company, you should consider speaking with an employment law attorney to see if your employer is wrongfully withholding overtime pay. Similarly, if you are an employer who would like to ensure your employees are properly categorized under the FLSA to best protect yourself against the types of claims mentioned above, an employment attorney can help you. 

Do you have questions about fair pay in your workplace? Our Employment Law attorneys can help. We represent both employers and employees, depending on the case, which gives us an edge in knowing the other side’s perspective. If you haven’t worked with us before, we will start by running a conflict check and then will let you know if we can work with you.