What can you do if you think you’re experiencing compensation discrimination?

If you think you might be experiencing pay discrimination on the basis of your sex, you should:

1. Try to resolve the situation informally, such as meeting with your supervisor to discuss your concern. If your supervisor is the person that you believe is responsible for the discrimination or if he or she is unable to assist you, try contacting a human resources staff person or whomever is designated in your employee handbook to address workplace issues. Review your employee handbook’s policies on discrimination to understand your company’s preferred

approach to complaints of discrimination. If you are a member of a union, consult your union representative. You may also consider more formal steps to resolve the situation, such as filing a discrimination charge.

2. Educate yourself about your rights:

  • Visit the website of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC enforces the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. You can learn about your rights and find out how and when to file a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. For federal sector employment, you also can refer to your agency’s federal sector complaint procedures.
  • Be aware of the timeframe for filing a charge with the EEOC. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 clarifies the time a complainant has to file a charge of compensation discrimination for purposes of Title VII. Under Title VII, a complainant has up to 180 days (or 300 days, depending on the state, county and city) after the employer’s most recent discriminatory action to file a charge with the EEOC. The Ledbetter Act states that there is a new discriminatory action each time an employer writes a paycheck that reflects unequal wages.
  • If you work for a federal contractor, visit the website of the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) to learn more about your rights under Executive Order 11246.
  • If you are concerned about employer policies that prevent you from discussing pay, or if you have experienced retaliation for talking about pay, visit the website of the National Labor Relations Board to learn more about your rights under the National Labor Relations Act.

3. Ensure that you keep accurate records. If you decide to file a charge or complaint with one of the agencies mentioned above, you will need to be able to relay the facts as clearly as possible. Keep copies of any documents related to the employment discrimination, such as your pay stubs, emails, memoranda, letters, performance evaluations, and disciplinary actions.

  • Think about whether there are any witnesses to the discrimination you experienced.
  • Keep notes if necessary to help you remember key dates or conversations.
  • Keep copies of all of these documents in a safe place.

4. Check with your state or local agency that administers state or local anti-discrimination laws. Some states, counties and cities have laws that provide greater protections than those offered under federal law. California's agency is the Department Fair Employment and Housing. http://www.dfeh.ca.gov/

5. Obtain legal assistance, if necessary.

  • This could be your union representative or an attorney practicing employment or discrimination. If you need an attorney referral, or think you cannot afford an attorney, you can contact your state’s Bar Association for assistance in locating an attorney who practices employment and/or discrimination law. Some bar associations can refer you to free (pro bono) legal services, and some law schools have programs through which law students provide free or reduced cost legal services as part of their training.

Ask for Help

The previous examples and suggestions are only a starting point. You can obtain further assistance from the resources listed below.

Where to go for Help

  • U.S. Department of Labor
    • Phone: 1-866-4-USA-DOL
    • (TTY: 1-877-889-5627)
    • www.dol.gov
  • Women’s Bureau
  • Department of Fair Employment and Housing, California
  • Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs
  • Civil Rights Center
  • U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
  • National Labor Relations Board


Adapted from the Women's Bureau of the U.S. Department of Labor