You and your co-worker have the same job title and perform the same duties, yet she makes more money than you do. Before you decide this is unfair or discriminatory, consider whether there are one or more perfectly good reasons for the disparity. It’s not illegal to pay people different amounts for the same job, according to an article in the June, 2007, “The HR Specialist,” and the difference may not have anything to do with gender, race or the other things you think may be factors.
The same or similar job titles do not automatically mean two jobs are the same. The legal aspects that determine whether two jobs are the same include five factors, according to The WAGE Project, which works to educate women about wage disparities. Jobs are the same when the skill, effort, responsibility, working conditions and establishment -- which usually means a single place of business -- are the same. If your job title is “Widget Manager” and your co-worker’s job is “Gadget Manager,” they are the same job, if all five conditions are met, and should have the same pay rate.
Even if the two jobs are the same, there may be other reasons that the pay is different. Experience makes a difference in many jobs. A 10-year veteran is usually considered to be more effective in his work than a newbie with six months on the job. Many organizations also start a new employee with relevant experience at a higher salary than a new employee with no experience. Experience is particularly important in jobs that require critical thinking skills or hands-on technical expertise, such as nursing, medicine, law or piloting an airplane.
Skill and technical proficiency can be reasons to pay a different salary, especially if they are highly relevant to the particular job. For example, secretarial jobs might be paid differently if one employee is highly skilled at using software programs, such as spreadsheets, and can type 80 words a minute, compared to an employee who has no experience with spread sheets and types 40 words a minute. Both the ability to use spreadsheets and typing speed are relevant to most secretarial jobs.
Education can affect pay levels. If you have a bachelor’s degree in business administration, while your colleague with the same job description has a master’s degree in the same subject, your employer may pay more for the higher-level degree. An employee who takes classes to improve his skills in a work-related area may also be entitled to a more substantial paycheck. If you and your co-worker both deal with data analysis and she has taken statistics to sharpen her skills in that area, she may be paid a higher wage.
Just because the jobs, duties, education and skills are the same doesn’t mean your performance is equal to that of a co-worker. Performance issues can include the accuracy of your work, whether you ever miss deadlines and whether you accept new assignments. If you make frequent mistakes, grumble at the slightest sign of an additional task or make deadline promises that you miss by days or weeks, your employer is within his rights to pay you less based on your performance.
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.