Is wage discrimination legal?

UPDATED: Nov 19, 2011

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Is wage discrimination legal?

I am a district manager for a portrait studio company. Last week our company was purchased by one of our competitors. The competitor offered me the position that I am currently holding for the same rate of pay, with nearly the same benefits. In the offer, the company car that was leased for my personal/business usage was guaranteed until the end of its lease. During my job offer, I was told that I was get some sort of comparable compensation when the lease expired, however, the company refuses to tell me what they consider, “comparable compensation”. Also, the new company pays the district managers a median income of $54,000 per year. The district managers for the competitor have less responsibility, and perform less physical work. I was offered $31,000 per year, which is the same amount that I made with my old employer. Does it not qualify as wage discrimination to be asked to do the same job, with additional responsibilities, and be offered such a dramatic difference in wages?

Asked on November 19, 2011 under Employment Labor Law, Michigan


M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

As a general rule, employees do not have to be treated equally or even fairly. The fact is that it is perfectly permissable to give one employee more favorable treatment than another as long as such treatment does not violate company policy or an employment/union contract. Also, no form of actionable discrimination must be a factor for the wage differential.

However, based on your facts, there appears to be no such discrimination at play here. Discrimination in the workplace is only actionable if you have been given less favorable treatment due to your status in a legally protected class. Accordingly, there can be no discrimination in employment based on such factors as: race, religion, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, national origin, etc (none of which you indicated).

Bottom line, not all employees need be treated the same so long as they are not not in a legally protected class. And unfortunately for you, you are not.

As for "comparable compensation", that is up to your employer to decide. Again absent an agreement, etc. (as stated above), you are an "at will" employee. This means that your employer can set the terms and conditions of your employment as it best sees fit; this inlcudes your compensation package. For your part, you can choose to work for this employer or not.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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