11.07.2019 in Society

Equal Pay for Equal Work

What is equal pay for equal work? Equal pay for equal work is a concept of labor rights that presupposes that individuals performing the same work should receive the same compensation for their labor. However, numerous organizations in the current labor market do not comply with this concept. The truth as it currently stands is that equal pay for equal work is yet to be realized for workers. Many employers continue to have discriminative pay structures based on a number of factors, such as race, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation. However, the most distinct basis for pay differentiation among employees is gender. Therefore, the concept of equal pay for equal work is most commonly used in the context of gender discrimination. In this context, it has been determined that women are discriminated against based on their gender; thus, they receive less money compared to men for the same work done. Countless research studies have been conducted on this issue, revealing that for every dollar a man makes, a woman receives only 78 cents. It is unethical and morally incorrect for organizations to differentiate pay for equal work performed among employees because it is a denial of workers’ rights, it is unjust, it is a breach of moral duty, and it negates the whole essence of equity.
The aim of this essay is to explicate the view that equal pay for equal work should be advanced by companies. The procedure utilized in the essay entails the explanation and demonstration of the moral reasoning on the issue, objection and response to the issue and a conclusion.

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Explanation and Demonstration of Moral Reasoning

There is a need for organizations to adopt remuneration and compensation policies that guarantee equal pay for equal work among workers. Cremer, Pestieau, and Racionero (2011) justify this need by affirming that it is a morally correct thing to do and failing to do so is a sign of poor moral standing on behalf of companies involved. Therefore, there should not be any form of wage differentials for equal work depending on gender, race, or religious background. Thus, the claim that wage differentials and discriminative remuneration for equal work are to be considered immoral can be justified in the following ways.
First, organizations defying their responsibility to ensure that workers are paid equally for equal work are unethical because they are depriving their employees of what rightfully belongs to them. When workers perform equal work, employers do not have a logical reason to differentiate their pay. For instance, Greenspan (2008) notes that gender cannot serve as the basis for wage differentials for equal work done. Furthermore, other factors such as race, sexual orientation, and religion cannot be used as a basis for paying more for work that was done equally. Consequently, employers who differentiate pay for equal work depending on the above and other factors are doing so for selfish reasons that are serving only their needs. In addition, pay differentiation for equal work is unjust, further highlighting the ethical aspect of this action. It is unjust because the lowest paid worker is robbed. This robbery by organizations takes a form of stolen time and labor. Thus, only individuals who lack virtues and good values can run companies, which operate ignoring the concept of equal pay for equal work, hence treating their workers in a poor manner.
It is clear from the above arguments that there are multiple ethical issues concerning equal pay for equal work. These issues can further be analyzed using the deontological and utilitarian approaches. Deontology as the ethical theory of duty states that a person is morally obligated to act in accordance to a certain set of principles and rules. It supports this statement by affirming that human beings possess the unique capacity for rationality, which is the exact ability that requires them to act in compliance with a moral law or duty. According to Cremer et al. (2011), rationality places human beings under the obligation of acting in a moral manner as a kind of duty. Accordingly, deontology can be applied in the reasoning for the need for equal pay for equal work. From the organizations’ perspective, they have the moral duty to compensate their staff members for the work they have done without any form of prejudice. Therefore, this responsibility entails paying workers equally for equal work done without discriminating against them.
According to Kant (2008), some acts are always wrong even if they lead to an admirable outcome. This claim further assists in demonstrating the ethics of equal pay for equal work and the immorality of going against this concept (Kant, 2008). The decision by an organization to differentiate pay for equal work may be done to achieve a positive outcome like saving costs, safeguarding the interests of shareholders, or boosting the morale of a certain group of employees. All these outcomes may be admirable, but they are insignificant as the action that has been done to bring them into reality is morally wrong. This point affirms without a doubt that paying workers differently for the same work performed is wrong despite the outcome being positive.
The categorical imperative of Kant (2008) states that people should “act only on that maxim through which [they] can at the same time will that it should become a universal law”. This maxim may rest on rights or perhaps intrinsic valuation. However, it is not important, as what matters is that the maxim represents universal moral duties. This point can be illustrated with the example of the right of female employees to equal pay for equal work. This right implies that employers have the duty not to discriminate against their workers based on gender.
Another important implication of deontological ethics that can be used to lay emphasis on the significance of employers taking into consideration the right of equal pay for equal work as an ethical obligation is that all human beings are considered equal. For this reason, individuals should not be turned into means for other people’s ends. On the contrary, persons should be regarded as “ends in themselves” (Kant, 2008), implying that organizations should treat their staff members equally in all aspects, including remuneration. Differentiating pay confirms that employers neither care about the rights of their employees nor respect their human dignity. In this respect, they are only using workers to satisfy their needs despite the unfair system of payment. It clearly shows how using people to accomplish one’s goals without taking into consideration their well-being or treating them fairly is morally wrong. In addition, the lack of ethics is illustrated by the way organizations do not exude mutual respect and protection of human dignity when they disregard applying the concept of equal pay for equal work. According to Greenspan (2008), the failure to adhere to the concept of equal pay indicates moral limits of human behavior and, consequently, organizational behavior as to what is acceptable. Therefore, there is no wonder that disregarding the immorality of differentiating pay for equal work slowly becomes an issue that no longer matters.
On the other hand, the ethical theory of utilitarianism aims at achieving the greatest form of happiness that is better understood as the best consequence. Mill (2008) affirms that the consequences of an action are the determiners of its morality. That is, whether the action is wrong or right highly depends on the outcome. For this reason, when an action brings out the best outcome it is deemed as right while when it results in the worst outcome it is perceived as wrong. Therefore, the consequences of organizations not adopting equal pay for equal work will determine the rightness or the wrongness of this action and ultimately if it is an ethical or unethical thing for organizations to do. When companies disregard equal pay for equal work and instead differentiate pay for equal work, wage differentials will make the staff members who receive less money feel dissatisfied with their job. Secondly, some may experience negative emotions such as anger, frustration, and hatred for their colleagues who receive higher pay (Mill, 2008). Differentiate pay may also result in stress as employees will strive to understand what has set them apart despite doing equal work with their colleagues who received higher pay. It is clear that the act of differentiating pay for equal work brings about the worst outcome. Thus, according to the utilitarian concept of consequentialism, this action is not right, meaning that when organizations refuse to adhere to the concept of equal pay for equal work performed, they are unethical.
In addition, the fact that differentiating pay for equal work leads to nothing but a negative contribution to the affected further implies a lack of ethics on behalf of organizations that practice unequal pay for equal work. Greenspan (2008) supports the above claim by explaining that utilitarian thinking suggests that a positive contribution to individuals makes a morality true and justified.
While analyzing the utilitarian approach, it is imperative to note that just because a certain act makes people happy it should not be viewed as the right one. In particular, Kant (2008) points out that it is wrong and immoral to harm other people to make others happy. In the perspective of organizations differentiating pay for equal work, it is wrong and unethical for them to do this just because it makes a certain group of persons happy. The people who will be satisfied with this action include shareholders, the board of directors, and top management, but not ordinary workers.

Objection and Response

Organizations, which have been found to differentiate pay for equal work, have cited a number of reasons to justify their action as not being unethical. One such reason for the wage differentials focuses on the difference in pay between men and women. From this perspective, they argue that females tend to spend more time performing the same task compared to males. Consequently, they are given less pay, which is justified by the fact that they have a flexible schedule in return. The second reason quoted to justify the wage gap created because of unequal pay for equal work is that women tend to have more medical and sickness insurance costs than men. Therefore, it is justifiable for them to receive less money compared to males. Cremer et al. (2011) confirm that another pseudo-argument for the unfair treatment of women and the creation of wage differentials is that females live longer than men do, thereby increasing the cost of pensions. Lastly, the fact that the media have managed to create a form of stereotype regarding women, organizations have felt justified in using this stereotype to define the pay margin for females. In short, organizations are using such absurd arguments as longevity as the justification for unequal pay.
However, this type of reasoning can be challenged because none of the claims are actually ethical in any way. All these reasons provided by organizations to justify their actions of disregarding workers’ rights to equal pay for equal work are indeed absurd and are based on the vulnerabilities of the affected parties (Kant, 2008). It must be understood that some women in fact go overboard in the performance of their organizational tasks compared to men. Their quality output and professional spirit should ensure they are compensated at same levels with their male counterparts.  In this instance, many organizations have taken advantage of women’s vulnerabilities, such as motherhood and a higher tendency for medical attention, to take away their right to equal pay with their male counterparts. It confirms a sense of malice and opportunistic nature of organizations with this kind of tendency.


Equal pay for equal work will continue to be a debatable issue for a long time. Organizations will continue to exercise unethical practices concerning this issue. Workers are treated unfairly, unjustly, and maliciously as companies strive to continue making financial gains at their expense. The deontological and utilitarian perspectives on ethics have been useful in offering an understanding of the morality of organizations that differentiate pay for equal work. The application of the two theories of ethics has revealed how unethical wage differentials are. Further, the justification provided by these companies with regard to their actions is not reasonable. In truth, they further highlight their lack of morality regarding their remuneration and compensation policies.

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