Can an employer pay unequal wages for no reason?

UPDATED: Feb 21, 2012

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Can an employer pay unequal wages for no reason?

I’ve been working at a company for over 6 years, and recently found out that I am, and have been, significantly underpaid compared to my coworkers, who are doing the same line of work as me. I started out working $10/hr, now working $14.50, soon to be $15.50. However, both my coworkers are making $23/hr, including one hired about a year ago. My supervisor has always expressed satisfaction in my work, as I have gone above and beyond my job, making dramatic improvements to processes and improving efficiency. This has been repeatedly relayed to upper management but to no avail.

Asked on February 21, 2012 under Employment Labor Law, Illinois


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

There is no law saying that all employees doing the same or similar jobs must be paid the same, or that more experienced or senior employees must earn more than less experienced or senior employees. So long as--

1) If you have an employment contract or union agreement, your pay does not violate it; and

2) You are not being paid less due to your race, religion, age over 40, disability or sex/gender (under federal law; some states protect a few additional categories, such as sexual orientation, family status, or national origin)

--it is legal.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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