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Rice Law Office Blog

This blog reviews important legal issues including: personal injury, employee compensation, workers compensation, discrimination and wrongful termination.

Five Things Every Employee Should Know

Five Things Every Employee Should Know

1) Men and women must be paid equal wages if they perform substantially the same work under the Equal Pay Act.  

"Equal pay" refers to more than just your paycheck. Under this law, all employers must provide "equal pay" including: equal salary, overtime pay, bonuses, stock options, profit-sharing and bonus plans, life insurance, vacation and holiday pay, cleaning or gasoline allowances, hotel accommodations, reimbursement for travel expenses and benefits.

2) Your employer cannot discriminate against you on the basis of your race, color, religion, sex or national origin in any terms or conditions of your employment, including compensation hours and benefits. 

 Under title VII of the civil rights act of 1964, any employer with at least 15 workers is required to provide equal employment opportunity. This means employers are prohibited from offering different pay for individuals doing the same or similar job or from employing other practices which would result in discrimination on the basis of a protected class such as denying promotions or taking other actions which would unfairly impacted employees' pay, work conditions or job security.

Under New Hampshire's discrimination law, RSA 354 – A the list of employees covered under the law is expanded to include a prohibition of discrimination on the basis of marital status, sexual orientation and pregnancy.

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Movement on Equal Pay and the Gender Gap

Movement on Equal Pay and the Gender Gap

Today, female workers earn more than 20 cents less on every dollar of income as compared to male counterparts performing similar work. This pay gap has proven persistent despite previous policy efforts to bring gender equity to the pay scale. But, recent legislative action in California and Ohio as well as at the federal level has the potential to close the pay gap between men and women in the U.S. workforce.

The U.S. already has federal legislation, the Equal Pay Act, in place to prevent against gender based wage discrimination. While the Equal Pay Act does provide protections for workers seeking equal wages, many feel that we need to go further given the continued gap. The pending Paycheck Fairness Act could be passed this year, and would strengthen protections provided under the Equal Pay Act.

Ohio currently has a bill pending, House Bill 330, which would provide these types of protections. If passed, state and local governments would be required to determine the value of comparable work across job categories. The law in Ohio would also require companies receiving state contracts or receiving state funds to meet an even higher standard along with providing protections for employees against retaliation for discussing or sharing salary information.

California’s new Fair Pay Act may be the most expansive fair pay law in the country, and has the potential to set a new standard for other states considering this type of action. Women across the country want be paid at the same rate for the same work as their male peers, and employees and employers alike should be aware of their obligations when it comes to gender equal pay.

 Photo courtesy of Flickr user Seattle Municipal Archives under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License.

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Mother's Day and Gender Equality in the Workplace

Mother's Day and Gender Equality in the Workplace

With Mother’s Day just behind us, most of us probably spent some time and money in appreciation of our Mom. On average Americans spent $169 on Mother’s Day in 2013— a better use of our resources might be reviewing the current state of gender equality in the workplace. Despite our heavy spending on Mother’s Day, the US could do significantly more to ensure that moms everywhere have equal opportunity, pay, and protections in the workplace. Here are some areas we could improve on:

Women still earn significantly less than their male counterparts. Full-time, year round female employees earn 77 percent of their male counterparts, and while this gap has narrowed over time, there’s still significant work to be done.Women are significantly underrepresented at the highest levels of corporate management, and female executives are still a rarity. Only 7 percent of S&P 1500 companies have a top female manager, up from 1.6 percent in 1992. Unfortunately, most companies with a woman in their top five executive positions had only one woman in that group.The United States is one of only two countries in the world that provided no paid time off for new mothers. While we do have laws in place that ensure women can take time off without risking their job following the birth of a child, it is not paid, and lengthy leaves are often frowned upon.

Some states do provide greater protections for women in the workplace, extending beyond what is federally required. The state of California has mandated 6 weeks of partially paid maternity leave since 2002, and more than 90% of companies in the state have reported positive or neutral effects.

New England states also tend to provide greater protections for female employees—a 2015 study included Vermont (#1), New Hampshire (#4), Massachusetts (#5), and Maine (#8) in its top ten most friendly states for working mothers.

While most moms appreciate flowers, chocolate, and jewelry on Mother’s Day, there are bigger (and more meaningful) gifts we could be giving to mothers across the country. Equal pay, greater professional opportunity, and paid maternity leave would be good starting points.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia user Unforgettableid under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License.

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New Hampshire Helps Lead On Equal Pay

New Hampshire Helps Lead On Equal Pay

As of January 1 2015, New Hampshire employers are required to give equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender. The new law prohibits employers from paying employees of one sex less than employees of the other sex for equal work that (1) requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility and (2) is performed under similar working conditions.

The law also provides protection for those involved in an equal pay dispute, and makes it easier for employees to obtain wage information. Employers in New Hampshire will need to review their wage practices to ensure compliance with the new law. Violation of the new laws could result in a fine up to $2,500, but employers would also be liable for unpaid wages and liquidated damages. 

This law is part of an effort to close the gender pay gap nation wide—women still make about 78 percent of what their male counterparts take home. In many ways, the states have taken the legislative lead on addressing this issue. New Hampshire is one of 45 states to enact legislative protection for gender equal wages.

There are exceptions that allow for employers to pay at different rates when the differential is determined based upon a factor of demonstrable value. Differences in seniority, performance, and education (among other factors) would still be acceptable reasons for pay differential.

President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, but women's wages still lag behind their male counterparts.  In the wake of this new state law, employers need to be sure that pay raises, promotions, and HR processes reflect their new legal obligations. Doing so will not only provide legal protection, but constitute a step towards establishing equal pay as a reality.

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