The impact of pay equity claims in the legal industry and beyond

American businesses still have “much work ahead of us” to truly make pay equal across the genders and achieve equal pay for equal work, according to Jack Tuckner, co-founding partner of the law firm Tuckner, Sipser, Weinstock & Sipser. In an article for Reuters, Megha Jain has interviewed Tuckner to delve deeper into pay equity issues afflicting organizations in our times.

According to the article –
“Women in-counsel in non-management roles were paid 14% lower than the average salary for men in the same role, according to a recent survey of 94 Black in-house lawyers.” Highlighting how the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the significant pay disparities, it says, “Women in the United States who work year-round are paid 83 cents for every dollar paid to a non-Hispanic, white men.”

Jain writes, “Regardless of the job role, sector, and practice area, gender pay disparity in legal workplaces still deeply affect women and particularly women of color. Women are facing a new type of “burn out” in the workplace, according to the Women in the Workplace 2021 Report by McKinsey and Although there have been more women rising to senior positions, they seem to take on extra work compared to their male counterparts — work for which they are often not compensated. Further, women generally do more to support their team, advance diversity initiatives, lead company-wide initiatives for equity, and are more likely to be allies to colleagues in the LGBTQ communities. In legal roles, women often lead pro bono initiatives at law firms and are more likely than men to educate themselves about the challenges that women of color face at work, to speak out against discrimination, and to mentor or sponsor women of color.”

Citing Tuckner, she writes, in New York, to bring a successful sex discrimination unequal pay claim, a plaintiff must show that she is being paid less than men who are performing “substantially similar work” on jobs and that other remedies have been exhausted. New York also has banned mandatory arbitration for sexual harassment cases, enacted the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (which makes pregnancy itself a protected status), and enacted the New York Paid Family Leave law, the nation’s strongest and most comprehensive paid family leave policy.

“The playing field is anything but level yet, Tuckner says, because “that will take a few more years when these new laws designed to empower working women will demonstrate a long-term effect.” Recently, Tuckner represented a lawyer who was earning $40,000 per year less than a male counterpart when they were both performing the exact same job and had nearly identical resumes.

Another critical party to address pay inequity issues are hiring managers, since they play a critical first step in deciding who gets in the door, explains Tuckner, adding that hiring managers should use “objective metrics” when evaluating candidates in order to ensure that the company is hiring someone based on credentials and skills. Indeed, using such standard measures avoids more subjective criteria such as how much the hiring manager may like the candidate as a person or sees them as a better cultural fit. Overuse of these subjective biases may make a workplace one that does not have a culture that promotes women or individuals with underrepresented identities.

When interviewing candidates, hiring managers shouldn’t ask about salary history (currently, 21 states don’t allow this), family, kids, or other personal matters because those tend to create implicit bias. Beginning on May 15, 2022, employers in New York City must begin listing salary ranges in any advertisements for jobs, promotions, or transfer opportunities.