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Stuck in the Fifties

Rosa Parks, Number 7053

A salesman writes:-
I am an outside salesperson for a company in the southeastern U.S. I have recently discovered that some of my peers (other outside salespeople, all men like myself) have a different commission rate (higher) and additional benefits (company car). We all do the same job. I was told when I was hired that I was getting the same compensation package as all the other salespeople. Do you think I have a case for wage discrimination I would appreciate a reply.

NoMoreTiers replies:
Firstly it's important to realize that I am not a lawyer, but rather an activist trying hard to stimulate interest in and raise awareness and consciousness of what I consider to be a very important human right that few are aware of, and all too many are studiously ignorant of.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been around since 1948, but it took the guts of a Rosa Parks in 1955, refusing to give up her bus seat to a white male (violating municipal bus regulations in the process) before the modern civil rights movement was sparked into real action and people generally started to take the issue of racial equality seriously.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Article 23. (2)
Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.

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In regard to equal pay for equal work for "everyone", we are still in those dark ages of pre 1955.   Article 23 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights talks about "any" discrimination, but some sovereign states have gone to great lengths to specify specific forms of discrimination in the workplace (based on race, sex, religion etc) when composing their own legislation and regulations, thus tacitly condoning and sometimes clearly permitting any other forms of discrimination.   As a consequence many employers take advantage of this loophole and actively discriminate against various categories of workers such as "temps", "seasonals", "illegals", and even those falling outside a fictional core compliment number.   And of course there is even completely arbitrary discrimination on the part of employers, especially with regards to employees who have been dubbed staff or salespeople, who are often required to sign non-disclosure agreements as a condition of employment.

So I would have to say yes, you are almost certainly a victim of discrimination, but (based on my own experience, grievance and discussions with lawyers) you may not have a winnable case. Furthermore if you do not have the protection of a union, you will probably find that if you tell your boss the truth, then the truth will set you free! As in free of employment.

This may not be the answer you were looking for Bill, but believe me your question is an important one and when many others become as aware of the issue as you are then we will be well on our way to changing the world for the better.

In Solidarity,
John Barker

It is not my intention to imply that those who are not organized can do nothing about their situation. An article by Joyce Laine Kennedy at describes an excellent strategy for dealing with the kind of situation described above (although it does not solve the underlying problem), and in fact Bill made significant gains using a similar approach.   And of course one can always become an activist, given the motivation, the energy and the will.

Your comments, questions, ideas and opinions are important!

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May 2005