We’re writing this post because we’ve been asked this question several times, and we believe it is an important issue to address concerning fair and equal pay.

The question, “Should we pay women and minorities more because they are fewer, and more difficult to attract and hire to our business?” is a question that is coming up more and more as companies try to diversify their teams, especially in engineering and technical disciplines.

Let us be crystal clear on the point that we are highly sympathetic to companies that want to attract more diverse candidates and diversify their workforce. Not only is the inclusion of all groups in society ethically the right thing to do, it is also good for business, as you can read in this article. There’s no doubt that diversity pays off in many ways and leads to positive effects for your business.

Unfortunately, it is unacceptable to pay anyone more because of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, ideology, etc.

Legally speaking, there are issues with compensating an individual more or less based on their gender or race. See the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s page that describes the legal view on pay equality in the workplace:

“The EPA provides that employers may not pay unequal wages to men and women who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility, and that are performed under similar working conditions within the same establishment.”

One helpful litmus test of whether your company is making a good decision about its hiring practices is to swap pronouns or groups when considering how you are treating candidates. If you swap a “She” for a “He”, for instance, does it suddenly sound discriminatory? Hiring and talent and performance evaluation policies and procedures need to apply to everyone uniformly.

There are many tools that employers have to evaluate the skills and competencies of an individual to determine the fair compensation for that employee. The EEOC backs up the use of these tools:

“Pay differentials are permitted when they are based on seniority, merit, quantity or quality of production, or a factor other than sex. These are known as “affirmative defenses” and it is the employer’s burden to prove that they apply.”

We recommend that employers look holistically at a candidate’s education, work background, unique skills and competencies, and other merit-based factors when considering their compensation upon hiring. We support our customers pursuit of talent that is diverse and highly qualified.

There are many ways you can accomplish your goals of diversity and inclusion that involve equal opportunity for all. We believe that undergoing a pay audit and working with a third party to validate the audit is a great way to send a strong signal to the diverse pool of talent in your market that you are serious about diversity and inclusion. That is why we were inspired to start SameWorks; to provide this to companies in a manner that is easy to use and affordable.