What to do if you find out you’re not getting equal pay for equal work

In 2005, Equal Pay Day was on April 19th. This year, it falls on April 2nd. The day represents how far into the year a woman has to work in order to make the same amount a man made in the previous year. In 14 years, we’ve made 17 days worth of progress. (This is just the average for U.S. women of all races. In 2019, Black Women’s Equal Pay Day falls on August 7th.)

Somehow, despite the attention, despite those speaking out, unequal pay for women still persists. And if you find out it’s happening to you, it can be infuriating.

“First off, know that it’s okay if you are upset, Kathlyn Hart, creator of the salary negotiation bootcamp for women, Be Brave Get Paid, tells HelloGiggles. “It is extremely frustrating to know that you have been working for months — maybe even years — being paid less than your peers for the same work.

After waves of anger and an unfortunate newfound solidarity with billions of women around the world (women like Emmy Rossum, Serena Williams, and Michelle Williams have spoken openly about unequal pay), know that you’ll be okay. And that you can do something about it.

HelloGiggles spoke with three experts on equal pay about what you should do if you find out you’re not getting equal pay for equal work.

Talk with coworkers

Support among coworkers can give you — and others in your company who might be unfairly paid — an edge when it comes to negotiations.

“Start being open about your salary with your coworkers and encouraging them to do the same. It’s a delicate topic, but it’s important to start having a dialogue on these issues,” Nicole Swartz, an attorney and founder at Sprout Law, tells HelloGiggles. “If you’re being paid unfairly, chances are good that others are paid unfairly as well.”

Do your research

Andrea Paris, an employment attorney, advises anyone who finds out they are being paid unfairly to do their research before discussing the matter with a manager or human resources.

“Bring a copy of the job description and a list of any additional duties that you are responsible for when compared to the other coworker who is being paid more, Paris tells HelloGiggles. Get ahead of the conversation by finding similar education and work qualifications, or where your own experience might be superior. “These are the areas that an employer may use to justify the discrepancy in pay, she shares.

Make copies of everything and be ready to share them. “I would submit these documents in writing in addition to having a discussion with HR so that there is a paper trail,” advises Paris.

Meet with your manager

Now that you’ve built your case, it’s time to meet with your manager. “While it may feel scary, as you approach your boss to set up a meeting, remind yourself to focus on the facts, not the feelings. While they may be able to discount your emotions, they can’t discount the facts!” says Hart.

Present what you’ve researched, but remember to keep your cool — no matter how angry you might be. “I would caution against going in with guns blazing because although there are employers that intentionally discriminate, the majority don’t even realize there is a pay discrepancy,” Paris says.

Escalate it

If you feel your case might be met with friction or if your company has an especially grim history of inequality, you might want to consider other options. “There’s no harm in consulting with an employment attorney about the situation before you take any action within the company. They can tell you the best actions to take with the company going forward, so that’s always a good option,” says Swartz

And if you decide you’re out of options and want to share your story?

“It's time to speak to the press when you're reasonably certain that management isn't going to take action and you're financially secure enough to weather the consequences of going forward, Swartz says. “Unfortunately, one cost of going to the press is that it can get you fired, so just make sure you're emotionally and financially prepared for that.

It’s not easy to find out you’re being paid unfairly, but every woman who steps up to make her case is taking a giant step forward for womankind. So when it’s scary and outraging and you can’t believe it’s happening to you, know we’ve got your back.

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