Wisconsin Equal Pay/Comparable Worth: What you need to know

Unlike many other states, Wisconsin does not have a stand-alone equal pay law. Rather, this issue is addressed as part of the Wisconsin Fair Employment Act (WI Stat. Sec. 111.31 et seq.). The Act prohibits compensation discrimination against individuals on the basis of age, race, creed, color, disability, marital status, sex, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, arrest record, conviction record, military service, or use or nonuse of lawful products off the employers’ premises during nonworking hours, or declining to attend a meeting or to participate in any communication about religious or political matters.
Employment discrimination “because of sex” includes discriminating against any individual in “compensation paid for equal or substantially similar work” (WI Stat. Sec. 111.36(1)(a)).
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The Act permits gender-based pay differentials only in circumstances where gender is a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). The Act states that gender constitutes a BFOQ only if all of the members of one gender are physically incapable of performing the essential duties of the job, or if the employer's business operation would be undermined by hiring employees of both genders for the position in question (WI Stat. Sec. 111.36(2)). Employers should use extreme caution in basing compensation differentials on a BFOQ. Courts are often reluctant to uphold BFOQs in any but the most extreme cases. Two areas in which BFOQs have commonly been upheld are the modeling business (i.e., limiting hiring to male models for a men's clothing catalog is permissible) and occupations where privacy is a substantial concern (i.e., using female restroom attendants for women's restrooms). Gender ...

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