Local and National Legal Protections for Employees


The Equal Pay Act (EPA) was passed in 1963 as part of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), and it mandates employers to pay both sexes equally for the same jobs. If your employer fails to pay you a wage which is equal to your opposite-sex coworker’s, they may be in violation of several local and national legal protections for employees. There can be pretty significant penalties for companies that find them themselves in violation of the EPA.

For example, you can file a formal complaint of discrimination through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – although you’re not required to do so for EPA claims. You can also file a complaint in federal court. If you win an Equal Pay Act case, you could get the wages you should have earned for a period of up to three years, which can be significant.

The Civil Rights Act

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes a provision that makes it illegal to discriminate against employees on the basis of sex, as well as many other categories. When the act was proposed, it was highly contested because it primarily addressed race. Legislators who did not want the Civil Rights Act passed thought it would be voted down if they included this stipulation on sex, but we know that isn’t what happened.

Under Title VII, you have to file complaints through the EEOC first, which is unlike an EPA claim. You can get economic, non-economic, and punitive damages from a successful Title VII claim. However, there is an employee threshold limit, which means your company must have at least 15 employees for you to be protected under Title VII. This is also unlike EPA claims, as the Equal Pay Act applies to all workers.

DC Human Rights Act

There are some local laws that exceed the benefits offered by the Equal Pay Act or Title VII. For instance, the DC Human Rights Act has more recoverable damages and has a longer statute of limitations.

Under Title VII, you have to file within either 180 or 300 days of the last discriminatory event. Alternatively, the DC Human Rights Act gives potential claimants a year to file a complaint of discrimination. Additionally, there are no caps on damages for claims filed under the DC Human Rights Act like there are for those filed under Title VII.

This is important to keep in mind because your employment rights may vary substantially depending on where you live, which can be a little unfair. A worker’s legal options can even be different between counties. For example, the Montgomery Human Rights ordinance is very powerful in Montgomery County, Maryland.

Business owners should pay special attention to local laws rather than Title VII because that’s what an attorney would use to litigate any complaints of discrimination. It is important to consider local and national legal protections for employees when dealing with issues within your company.