Can Transparency Lead to Equal Pay?

Oracle America, Inc. is being sued by the Department of Labor over allegations that it pays white men more than its equivalent female, African American and Asian employees. The lawsuit also alleges that Oracle discriminates against non-Asian applicants in its hiring practices, and favors hiring Asian employees for technical roles. The lawsuit is related to Oracle’s federal contracts. Federal contractors are required to disclose pay practice information.

The Labor Department has alleged that Oracle refused to comply with its investigation, and did not provide all compensation data or complete hiring information. Federal contractors are subject to the same anti-discrimination laws as non-federal contractors, but have a heightened standard in that they are required to be more transparent and allow the federal government to review their employment records.

Oracle is denying the allegations. It claims that the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is being overbroad in its requests and asking for information that reveals confidential data. Oracle has every reason to fight the allegations as the cost for the alleged violations could be in the millions.

The Current Landscape for Employees

Equal pay has been a long standing problem, with slow moving progress. Companies generally are not required to have internal transparency about pay practices. Lobbyists have presented the enactment of The Paycheck Fairness Act to help ensure equal pay is awarded to women (and perhaps other protected minorities). And, even though the National Labor Relations Act protects employees who choose to coordinate discussions about pay practices, there has generally been an understanding amongst employees that pay is a taboo topic.

If individuals want to advance equal pay, employees are going to have to start talking about compensation openly. Companies have numerous competitive reasons for not wanting compensation transparency—namely, that employees are less likely to demand more pay if they don’t know how much (or how little) they’re paid. Waiting on government action is probably not a good bet, either.

Knowledge is power. Individuals only get that power when they are willing to work together, ask questions, and share information.

Chicago Employment Attorneys Fight for Workers

As employment attorneys, our job is ensuring that the workplace is fair, just, and equitable. The first step begins with you. If you have reason to believe your employer is not paying you fairly or is utilizing unfair compensation practices, it’s time to give yourself a voice. We’ll have your back when you do.

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