About the Firm

The law firm of Sharpless & Stavola, P.A. provides top quality, aggressive legal representation to individuals and businesses throughout North Carolina. A core practice area of the firm is employment litigation, where our attorneys regularly represent parties in disputes arising from all aspects of the employer-employee relationship. Employment issues frequently litigated by the firm include claims of discriminatory hiring and employment practices, sexual harassment, retaliation and wrongful discharge, wage and hour violations, breach of contract and no-compete covenants, and employee benefits litigation. In addition to confronting claims of traditional employment discrimination, the firm represents parties with respect to statutory rights and obligations imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Medical Leave Act.

On behalf of our clients, we regularly appear in all North Carolina state and federal courts and administrative agencies, including the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the North Carolina Department of Labor, and the Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

Sharpless & Stavola, P.A. is a Martindale-Hubbell “AV” rated law firm. Please review the firm’s webpage for additional information, including individual attorney profiles. The firm's telephone number is 336-333-6400.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Equal Pay Act Turns 50 - So What Does It Add Anyway?

Last month, the Equal Pay Act, a powerful if somewhat overlooked federal employment discrimination law, turned 50 years old.  Many employers and employees mistakenly believe that the Equal Pay Act (“EPA”) provides identical, redundant protection to that provided by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the much more widely applied legislation known as Title VII.  In fact, the Equal Pay Act provides additional protections that are often times overlooked in the employment arena.

First, the Equal Pay Act does not require an aggrieved employee to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.  Therefore, an employee who has missed the relatively short deadline within which to file a charge of discrimination can still pursue a lawsuit under the EPA.  The statute of limitations under the EPA is two years.  The limitations period actually expands to three years in cases of willful employer violations.
Also unlike Title VII, the Equal Pay Act does not limit its reach to employers of at least 15 employees.  Consequently, small employers who escape regulation by Title VII can still be sued for pay discrimination under the EPA.

Like Title VII, the Equal Pay Act enables a prevailing employee to recover his or her attorney’s fees.  In addition, the EPA allows employees to obtain liquidated damages, which is an amount equal to the back pay awarded for the Equal Pay Act violation.  Although the EPA does not allow for punitive damages per se, the liquidated damages award essentially serves a punitive purpose.

Perhaps the greatest distinction between the two statutes is that an aggrieved employee is not required to prove discriminatory intent under the Equal Pay Act.  Instead, an employee need only prove that he or she received lower pay for substantially equal work as members of the opposite gender.  To some extent, this distinction makes proving an EPA claim easier.  The EPA does, however, also provide employers with certain specified defenses, such as merit and seniority systems and systems under which pay is determined by quantity or quality of production.

Even after fifty years under the Equal Pay Act, wage disparities remain commonplace.  Determining whether such a disparity constitutes a violation of the Equal Pay Act and/or Title VII can be a difficult and deceptive task requiring experienced counsel. 


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