Many companies have overt written policies that forbid their staff members from discussing compensation. Even if that weren’t the case, for many people, blunt discussions about finances can seem rude, and inquiring about someone’s income can seem inappropriate.

Companies depend on employees willingly withholding information about their pay from one another. They need their staff to maintain a code of silence about wages in order to get away with discriminatory and, frankly, illegal compensation practices, such as paying men with the same experience and education more than their comparable female counterparts.

Federal law mandates equal pay for equal work

There are multiple different laws against discrimination, but the Equal Pay Act is the clearest when it comes to discrepancies in pay. All employers, even if they only have one person on staff, have to make a concerted effort to ensure that they pay everyone based on performance, experience or education, not based on gender, race or other protected characteristics.

The compensation considered for the sake of this rule includes not just salary or hourly wages, but also commissions, benefits, bonuses, profit sharing, expense allowances, paid time off, stock options, and even life insurance or travel expense reimbursement.

Uncovering these discrepancies can take time, but the clearer they are, the stronger the case of the female worker not receiving the same degree of compensation as her coworkers. Talking with men in similar positions, as well as other women, can help someone determine if there is a consistent discrepancy regarding wages and compensation between men and women within the company or even just in their department.

Equal pay claims are more straightforward than other discrimination claims

Employees who discover that the company they work for has discriminated against them regarding payments can make a claim against the company, which won’t just compensate them but also help ensure that future workers won’t have to experience the same hardship.

Instead of needing to involve federal agencies, as is the case for many kinds of discrimination claims, women receiving unequal pay can take their claim directly to the local courts. Depending on the circumstances, you likely have either two or three years from the time of the violation to take action.