Most of us would like to think that we have come a long way towards equality in the past few decades. Over that time, many people have fought against discrimination in the workplace, finding support in state and federal anti-discrimination laws. However, a new report shows that the pay gap between white and black workers is wider today than it was in 1979.
A report from the Economic Policy Institute has compared the average hourly wages of workers in the U.S., making adjustments based on education level, experience, area, and region. Taking these factors into account, the researchers have found “sizable wage gaps between black and white workers.”
The report cites “the growth of racial wage gaps beginning in the early 1980s to factors like high unemployment, declining unionization, and lax enforcement of anti-discrimination laws.
Employees are protected from discrimination by both state and federal laws, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, American with Disabilities Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Equal Pay Act. Illinois state laws also protect employees against discrimination under the Illinois Human Rights Act. These laws prohibit discrimination against protected employees in hiring, firing, compensation, and other benefits.
According to the report, white male college graduates earn almost 18% more than black graduates with at least a bachelor's degree. Across the board, the average hourly wages of black men was 22% lower than for white men. In 1979, the difference was only about 17%.
On average, black female workers earn almost 12% less than white workers. That number has increased from 4.5% in 1979. For black female college grads, the gap is even greater. They earn about 27% less than white female college graduates.
When employees first enter the job market, the pay gap between white and black workers is very narrow. However, the report claims that as workers age and gain more experience, the pay gap widens.
Co-author of the report and economics professor William Rodgers says the wage gaps are primarily due to discrimination and general inequality. “In order to address racial wage gaps,” said Rodgers, “direct action must be taken to decrease discrimination and address the problem of stagnant wages across the board.”
One of the problems identified by the report is that most wage growth has been concentrated in certain job areas, and few black workers earn wages that put them in the top earning brackets. "Only 3 percent of all chief executives are African-American,” the study says, “and a disproportionate number of them are employed in the public or private nonprofit sectors, where salaries are lower and more likely to be capped than they are in the private for-profit sector."
If you suspect that you are under compensated, have been denied a raise or passed over for a promotion because of racial discrimination, you should speak with an experienced attorney who understands employment discrimination law. Our attorneys have successfully handled employment discrimination cases for our clients in Peoria and throughout the state of Illinois. At Benassi & Benassi, we are committed to getting our clients the justice they deserve and equal treatment under the law.