There are no federal “unfair pay laws” (or “unfair pay acts”) named as such, but the federal laws summarized below protect employees from unfair pay practices in one way or another.
So-called unfair pay laws (or fair pay laws) are generally and more appropriately referred to as discrimination laws or wage and hour laws.
Discrimination Laws Serving as Unfair Pay Laws
Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
The ADEA prohibits most employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of age. It protects employees of age 40 or older from unfair pay and other questionable employment practices related to age. See Age Discrimination for more information.
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
Title I of the ADA is an unfair pay law of sorts, in that it makes it illegal for most employers to discriminate against covered disabled workers in any aspect of employment on the basis of their disabilities. Except under specific circumstances regarding the minimum wage, employers may not pay covered disabled workers less than others solely because the workers are disabled.
For covered disabled workers employed by the federal government, the ADA antidiscrimination standards apply under Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act. See Americans with Disabilities Act for more information.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits most employers from discriminating against employees in any aspect of employment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or sex (gender). A common implementation of this Act as an unfair pay law is on the basis of gender, when employers pay more to men than women for performing the same job duties; but, the Equal Pay Act might better suit the purpose.
Equal Pay Act of 1963
The Equal Pay Act was more of an “unfair pay law” than any other federal act, until Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (below). The EPA is a discrimination law that amended the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, to prohibit employers from paying unequal wages to men and women for equal work.
Although it protects both genders, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act mainly to stop employers from unfairly paying men more than women for the same work. See Equal Pay for more information about this landmark unfair pay law.
Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009
This well-publicized unfair pay law greatly extended the statute of limitations for employees to file wage discrimination charges and subsequent lawsuits against their employers.
Even though the Act’s namesake is that of a woman, Lilly Ledbetter, it better protects both male and female workers from wage discrimination, including those of color, those with disabilities and those of age 40 or older. For more information, see the blog post Obama Signs Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
Wage and Hour Laws Serving as Unfair Pay Laws
Minimum Wage Law
The federal minimum wage law is an unfair pay law of sorts that falls under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), which is the “main” wage and hour law so to speak. The law requires most employers to pay at least the federal minimum wage to eligible employees.
Overtime Pay Law
The federal overtime pay law is also an unfair pay law of sorts that falls under the FLSA. It requires most employers to calculate overtime pay at a rate of at least 1.5 times regular wages, for eligible employees who work more than 40 hours in a workweek.
As indicated, the unfair pay laws explained above are at the federal level. States may enact their own unfair pay laws of sorts that provide equal or better protections than the federal equivalents, as many states have. Wage lawsuits are typically easier to win under such state laws and often grant better rewards.
Consult a lawyer for legal advice about federal or state, so-called unfair pay laws.
Did you know? Because employment is presumed to be “at-will” in the U.S., employers may reduce employees’ pay at anytime and for any reason, as long as employers don’t do so in violation of laws (such as those above) or in breach of employment contracts.