Equal Pay in Tennessee

Pt. 1: What is an Equal Pay Claim and How to Prove It?

What is an Equal Pay Claim?

 An equal pay claim is a lawsuit that alleges that an employer is paying a woman less than men in the workplace for comparable work. For women in Tennessee, two laws provide a right to sue an employer who violates this idea of equal pay.

Federal – The Equal Pay Act of 1963 under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires an employer to compensate employees equally for “equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions. . . .” 29 U.S.C.A. § 206 (West).

State – The Tennessee Equal Pay Act requires employers provide equal pay to women “for comparable work on jobs the performance of which require comparable skill, effort and responsibility, and that are performed under similar working conditions.” Tenn. Code Ann. § 50-2-202(a) (West).

An article from the National Women’s Law Center Women alleged that Women only made 59 cents for each dollar paid to men when the Equal pay act was passed. Although there has been much improvement, the American Association of University Women reported that women in Tennessee still make 18% less than men do. This vast differential in pay puts women at an unfair disadvantage in the marketplace. If you believe you have been or are being paid less than members of the opposite sex in your workplace, call an experienced attorney to advise you on your ability to recover unpaid wages and compensation. Freeman & Fuson has years of experience in civil litigation.


How to Prove it?

Initial Proof

An employee bringing an equal pay claim against an employer must first show that the employee was paid differently than employees of the opposite sex for similar work. See Schleicher v. Preferred Solutions, Inc., 831 F.3d 746, 752 (6th Cir. 2016).

The Employer’s Potential Defenses

Once an employee has shown that she has been paid less than employees of the opposite sex for similar work, the employer can only defend on certain grounds. The employer must prove that the difference in pay is because of “(1) a seniority system; (2) a merit system; (3) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (4) any other factor other than sex.” Id. However, if the employer proves one of those four defenses, an employee can still recover if she can show that the reason offered by the employer for the disparity in pay is not the real reason it occurred. Id. at 753.


An experienced attorney can help you gather the proof you need to establish an equal pay claim. If successful, the employer must cover all attorneys’ fees.  Additionally, you could be entitled to double the amount of unpaid wages from your employer. If you believe you are being paid less than men in your workplace, let Freeman & Fuson fight for the pay you deserve. Call our office at 615-298-7272 and ask to speak to an attorney immediately.


Joseph W. Fuson, Esq. and Trey Woodall, Belmont Law Student

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