Part 2: How does Kentucky law treat unequal pay between genders?

In part 1 of this post, we talked about the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team’s lawsuit alleging that its employer, the U.S. Soccer Federation, paid team members less than members of their male counterpart, the U.S. Men’s National Soccer Team. In that blog, we explained that the women’s team is suing for unequal pay under two federal laws:

  • Equal Pay Act, part of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which applies to almost all employers; and
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for sex discrimination based on unequal pay, which applies to most entities employing at least 15 workers.

Today, we share information about a similar Kentucky state law making it illegal to pay different wages for similar work based on gender.

Kentucky Equal Pay Act

The state Equal Pay Act bans unequal wages based on gender for comparable work, namely for positions with “comparable requirements relating to skill, effort and responsibility.” This law applies to most Kentucky employers with at least 2 employees, except when (a) the wage difference stems from seniority or merit systems, and (b) the employer is covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and the FLSA has the same or stricter employer restrictions. (An employer in this category must file a statement of this status with the state.)

This law also says that an employer may not reduce the pay rate of an employee to equalize payment between genders. Nor may an employer retaliate against anyone exercising rights under this law or cooperating in any claim under the law.

The commissioner of the Department of Workplace Standards, which reports to the state labor secretary, enforces Kentucky’s Equal Pay Act. The commissioner has the power to investigate a covered employer for violations of the Act.

Legal remedies

A covered employee may file a lawsuit for unpaid wages. In cases where there’s a willful violation of the law, an employee may recover liquidated damages in addition to the unpaid wages. The court may also grant additional relief as appropriate.

The law also provides for civil penalties against an employer, ranging between $100 and $1,000, for retaliating against an employee for complaining of a violation of the Act to his or her employer or the commissioner, for testifying in a claim brought under the Act, or for filing a lawsuit under the Act.


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