The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Equal Pay Act Now 40
Betty Southard Murphy

Photo of Betty Southard Murphy Mrs. Murphy, a partner in the national law firm of Baker & Hostetler LLP, is the only person to have served as both Chairman of the United States National Labor Relations Board and Administrator of the Wage and Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor, both of which are presidential appointments. Mrs. Murphy has also served on the Executive Committee of the American Arbitration Association, and as a U.S. representative to the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. Based in Washington, D.C. Mrs. Murphy has tried cases in over 25 states and appeared in 9 U.S. Courts of Appeals and the U. S. Supreme Court. She has also handled mediations covering a wide spectrum of business disputes. Mrs. Murphy chairs the International Committee of the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution and is an Adjunct Professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law.

The Equal Pay Act, now 40 years old, is one of the shortest statutes with one of the biggest punches on record. Both radical and fragile when it arrived, it is now woven into the culture of the United States and is part of the internationally recognized Worker Rights found in treaties promulgated by the U.S. and by other countries. It is also embedded in many Constitutions that have come into existence around the world during the past four decades. It states:

No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment and they rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs, the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility and which are performed under similar working conditions... 1

Originally entrusted to the Wage and Hour Administrator of the U.S. Department of Labor, it benefited immediately by application of the procedural rules of the Fair Labor Standards Act. This saved much time and avoided uncertainties and lawsuits about procedures since, fortunately, they had already been tested and approved in the handling of the FLSA. When the administration of the Equal Pay Act was moved to the EEOC, the protective FLSA's procedures also moved over.

Today the EPA is in the good hands of EEOC Chair Cari Dominguez who is recognized far and wide as one of the most effective heads of this agency since its own creation in 1965. Under Chair Dominguez, new roads are being paved to that famous "Shining City on the Hill" of equal opportunity and equal pay. Thus, after 40 years, the EPA is still vibrant and alive with an impact that goes far beyond our borders. This bodes well for our country's future and, indeed, for the future of other countries that honor the principles of equality.

1. Equal Pay Act of 1963, as amended, found in the Fair Labor Standards Act (29 USC ยง 206(d)).

This page was last modified on June 10, 2003.

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