Is It Illegal To Give Different Benefits To Male And Female Employees?


Yes. When an employer gives different benefits to men and women because of their sex, that is a form of illegal sex discrimination. If you received fewer or different benefits than a person of the other sex who was doing the same kind of work at the same location, you may be able to file a claim or a lawsuit for compensation.

What Laws Protect Workers From Sex-Based Benefit Discrimination?

Several laws prohibit sex discrimination in pay. These include two federal laws, the Equal Pay Act and Title VII. States and cities may have their own laws as well.

When these laws prohibit discrimination in “pay,” the word is used in a broad sense. “Pay” is not only your base wage or salary. It also includes anything of value your employer may give you for your work, including health and life insurance, vacation pay, retirement benefits, overtime pay, stock options, reimbursement for travel, commissions, and bonuses. For any of these things or for any other type of employee benefit, it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of sex by giving different benefits to male and female employees when their work is substantially the same.

Is It Ever Legal to Give Employees Different Benefits?

Yes. Companies don’t have to provide the same benefits to everyone who works for them. They are allowed to give different benefits to different employees as long as the companies are doing so for legitimate business reasons.

For example, it’s fine for a company to give different benefits to employees who are doing different jobs. It’s also okay to give different benefits based on how long employees have been with the company or on how well they are doing their jobs.

What’s NOT okay is for companies to give different benefits based only on the employee’s sex or gender when they are doing the same work.

What Does It Mean to Be Doing the Same Work?

The Equal Pay Act makes it illegal for male and female employees to get different benefits when they are doing the same work. The law, however, does not require that the jobs being compared are identical or have the same job title or job description.

To show that you are doing the same work as someone who is getting different benefits, you will have to show several things about the jobs you and the other person are doing.

You need to show that a significant portion of the tasks you do are the same, that you and the other person have a similar level of responsibility, that you and the other person have similar experience, education, training, and ability, and that the jobs involve similar work conditions and require similar levels of mental and physical exertion. Usually, you will also need to show that you are working in the same location if your employer has more than one job site.

Examples of Illegal Sex Discrimination in Employee Benefits

There are different ways that employers can illegally give different benefits to male and female employees. These are some examples:

  • The employer has a policy to give more benefits to the “head of household.”
  • The employer offers health insurance for the wives and children of male employees but not for the husband and children of female employees.
  • The company’s retirement plan has different benefits or different retirement ages for men and for women.

Sometimes the discrimination may be more subtle and harder to spot. An experienced employment discrimination lawyer knows how to investigate and prove difficult cases.

What is the Difference Between the Equal Pay Act and Title VII?

Both the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibit discrimination in pay, including benefits, on the basis of sex. However, if you are filing a claim or bringing a lawsuit, each law has certain advantages and disadvantages.

  • If you sue under Title VII, you have to prove that your employer’s discrimination was intentional. You don’t have to do that with the Equal Pay Act. That means it may be favorable to your claim if you bring it under the Equal Pay Act.
  • Under Title VII, you have to first file a claim with the EEOC before you can file a lawsuit. With the Equal Pay Act, you can sue right away.
  • Under Title VII, you can ask for compensatory damages for your pain and suffering in addition to asking for payment for the benefits that you lost. Under the Equal Pay Act, you can’t. That means you may end up with more money if you sue under Title VII.
  • Your state, city, or other local law may also have anti-sex-discrimination provisions that may have advantages over the federal laws.

Which law will be better for you to use will depend on your situation. There is no one-size-fits-all answer. An experienced employment law attorney can guide you in deciding which law to use to file a claim or a lawsuit and also whether you should sue in federal or state court.

What Can I Do If I Think I’ve Been Offered Different Benefits Because of My Sex?

You deserve to receive equal benefits for equal work. If you suspect that you’ve been discriminated against in employee benefits because of your sex, you should consult an experienced employment discrimination lawyer. Both men and women can sue for sex discrimination in employee benefits.

The employment law team of exceptional trial lawyers at Raynes & Lawn would be glad to talk to you. Our firm has been fighting for justice for our clients for more than 50 years, and we are dedicated to providing the highest quality legal representation. We are committed to each client as a person. You will not be just a case to us. Simply fill out our contact form, or call us at (800) 535-1797, and we will set up a free, confidential consultation to find out more about what happened to you and tell you how we may be able to help.

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