Identifying wage discrimination in the workplace

Joy Ann Grune, executive director of the National Committee on Pay Equity in Washington, D.C., advises employees who think they may be the victims of discrimination based on comparable worth to ''talk to other women on the job, and find out if they, too, are upset. Find out if the men are making more money, and see what you can do to generate support for the idea.''

She cautions such employees to ''work with your union, if you have one, or at least get in touch with us or the Comparable Worth Project in Oakland, Calif., for support.''

The project has a 30-page booklet designed to prepare employees for the collective-bargaining approach to this issue, entitled ''First Steps to Identifying Sex and Race-Based Pay Inequities in a Workplace.'' It advises employees to start a Comparable Worth Committee to determine the following:

* Number of workers employed, broken down by numbers of men and women.

* Average salary earned by all workers.

* Average salary earned by men and by women, the dollar figure wage gap between men and women, and the percentage wage gap.

* Total number of occupations in the workplace, and the number and percentage of these occupations segregated exclusively or predominantly by gender.

* The average earnings of each of these categories, and the dollar and percentage wage gap between the categories.

Employees should also take a look at the job evaluation system used by their employer:

* How are wages determined in the workplace?

* If jobs are ranked according to the presence of compensable factors, what are these factors, and how is their presence in the job measured?

* If there are different methods of determining wages for different groups of jobs, how are the methods different, and what is the gender composition of each group?

* How long has the present wage-setting system been used, and what system or systems were used before?

* If prevailing wage rates are used to set salaries, how are those rates determined, which employers are surveyed, and how are the results of the survey used in the salary-setting process? If some jobs are not surveyed, how are they assigned to benchmark groups?

One note of caution: A lawyer with the Equal Employment Advisory Council, a corporate lobbying group that frequently litigates against pay equity cases, says that ''anyone who doesn't have evidence of intentional discrimination or an employer's job evaluation backing up their claim is going to have a tough case.''

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