Volume 79, Number 5

November 2004

The Equal Pay Act in the Courts: A De Facto White-Collar Exemption

Juliene James

The Equal Pay Act of 1963, though initially considered a victory for working women, has proven unsuccessful for women executives, administrative personnel, and professionals. This Note argues that plaintiffs bringing Equal Pay Act claims have faced courts whose interpretation of the law has effectively excluded women in higher level positions. Through an examination of the Act’s history and the history of similar exemptions in New Deal legislation, this Note argues that ideas about work, imported from early conceptions of managers, executives, and professionals in New Deal legislation, continue to influence courts’ interpretation of the Act. This Note offers two alternative solutions to this problem: The first prescription is to reexamine the history surrounding the Equal Pay Act with the aim of including workers who effectively have been excluded by judicial interpretation. The second is to reinstate in the Equal Pay Act the exemption as originally enacted so that the apparent inclusion of the these groups does not discourage legislative attempts to correct the problem.