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In Florida, do women have the right to equal pay for equal work?

Those who watched the second presidential debate from Miami on Tuesday know that the candidates were asked about women's rights in the workplace. Specifically, an audience member asked President Barack Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney about how they intend to close the wage gap between men and women.

While watching the debate, many Americans may have been stunned by the audience member's question. Is this an issue here in Florida? Is it legal to pay women less than men?

As many people in Broward County may be aware, this is a serious employment law issue in this country. It has been reported that women are paid an average of 72 percent of what men are paid for doing the same jobs. Here in Florida, female workers are a bit better off than the average. According to a news report, women in Florida make about 76 cents on the dollar compared to their male counterparts.

In some states, however, women are only paid about half of what men are paid.

This practice is currently illegal, but as data suggests, it is still an issue.

Under the federal Equal Pay Act of 1963, employers must pay men and women equal pay for equal work. For jobs to be considered equal under the law, the jobs and the job titles do not need to be identical, but the content of the work must be mostly equal. When this is the case, all pay including salary, overtime pay, stock options, bonuses, vacation, etc., must be paid equally.

When someone is not receiving equal pay for equal work, he or she may file a wage dispute claim. An employee only has two years from the time the unlawful compensation practice began, or three years if the violation was on purpose, to file such a claim. This can be problematic for workers who do not learn about the wage discrepancy until it is too late. Nonetheless, those who feel they are not receiving equal pay for equal work may benefit from legal counsel.

Source: Slate, "Map Shows the Worst State for Women to Make Money," Chris Kirk, Oct. 18, 2012

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