The Race to Equality: Reflections on Equal Pay Day by RPJ Partner Deena R. Merlen

March 15 is this year’s Equal Pay Day.

What does that mean?

Imagine that all the working men and women in America start working at the same time on January 1, 2021. It is like the starting line of a race.

On your mark.

Get set.


Imagine they work all year. The finish line for the men is December 31, 2021 – a full, productive calendar year. The men cross that finish line, then stop to catch their breath and add up all they earned.

Now imagine the women don’t stop at the finish line of December 31, 2021. They don’t even slow down as they pass the dawdling men. They keep going, working hard and with focus, because the finish line for the women is the date by which they will have earned the same amount the men had earned by December 31. For the women, that date is not in January. It is not even in February. They have to keep going.

Equal Pay Day this year was March 15, 2022. This means that statistically speaking, the women who started working on January 1, 2021 would have to work until March 15, 2022 to earn the same amount men had earned by December 31, 2021 for comparable work, with comparable skills.  This boils down to a woman earning 83 cents for every dollar earned by a comparable man with a comparable job.  As noted by EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows in her comments on Equal Pay Day, “The pay gap is even wider for women of color, mothers of young children, and women with disabilities.”

The Equal Pay Day is calculated and set anew each year.

There has been improvement in eliminating sex-based pay discrimination since the federal Equal Pay Act was enacted nearly a whopping 60 (!) years ago, but progress has been agonizingly slow. Not surprisingly, the U.S. Census Bureau has a lot of additional interesting if disheartening statistics to share, which can be viewed here.

However, in addition to the federal Equal Pay Act (and Title VII, which was enacted a year later), many states have enacted their own equal pay laws. Pay transparency laws – such as the one discussed in this article by my colleague Ethan Krasnoo – are also proliferating and trending. A map that shows the states that have enacted such pay transparency laws can be viewed at this US Department of Labor web page.

Such laws and protections will hopefully help pick up the pace of change and bring women closer to an equal finish line.


Deena R. Merlen

This article is intended as a general discussion of these issues only and is not to be considered legal advice or relied upon. For more information, please contact RPJ Partner Deena R. Merlen who counsels clients in areas of intellectual property, employment and labor law, media and entertainment, general business law, commercial transactions and dispute resolution. Ms. Merlen is admitted to practice law in Connecticut and New York.