Duchon recalled being told by her female manager that “in this sort of work, we are trying to do more with less and that we all had to take one for the team.”
When she received a promotion to associate director of accommodation services, her pay was still less than that co-worker’s, a difference that added up to nearly $12,000 over the course of seven years, she said.
“I was like, this is real. This isn’t a pittance. This is what I pay for a year in day care,” Duchon said.
She complained again and in April she received a pay differential, retroactive to December 2011. University officials confirmed Duchon’s account but declined comment.
“This pretty much shows that this happens all over the place – in private and public, in small ways and big ways,” Duchon said.
A study by the American Association of University Women found that pay disparity hits youthful workers, as well. One year out of college, women graduates earned 80 percent of their male counterparts’ pay, according to the study. Some of the gap was explained by women’s preference for lower-paying jobs, such as teaching.
Yet after accounting for occupation, along with college major, hours worked, and other factors, a 5 percent difference in earnings was still unexplained, most likely due in part to discrimination or gender difference and willingness and ability negotiate salary, the authors concluded.
The wage gap has narrowed markedly since President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in 1963 making it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who do substantially the same work. That year, women working full time made 59 cents for every dollar paid to men.
But stalled progress in the last decade has prompted renewed legislative pushes. In 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which extended the time for filing equal-pay lawsuits. The Paycheck Fairness Act, which has failed in Congress, would require employers to prove that wage differences are driven by business necessity and would bar companies from retaliating against workers who inquire about or disclose pay disparities. Outgoing Senator Scott Brown voted against it, saying the legislation would be a burden on businesses. Warren, the senator-elect, supports the bill.
In Massachusetts, legislators have sought numerous times to update the state equal pay law by more clearly defining “comparable work,” a delin eation that they say will give courts greater power to assess wage equity claims. The act would define comparable work as positions that “entail comparable skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions between employees of the opposite sex.”
State Representative Alice Wolf, Democrat of Cambridge and the bill’s sponsor in the House, said, “What this says is that there is a way of defining comparable work and that you have to pay people equally for comparable work.”