5 Reasons to Get Your Attorneys Involved in a Pay Equity Audit

Written by Heather Bussing

September 14, 2022

5 Reasons to Get Your Attorneys Involved in a Pay Equity Audit

The market is shifting. You're bringing on new people at higher salaries. You need to look at your pay ranges to make sure they are accurate for new state disclosure laws.

It's time to do a pay equity audit and assess your internal and external pay equity, diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) and hiring practices.

It's also time to call your employment attorneys to help with the process before you even begin gathering data.

Here's why.

Why it is important to involve attorneys in Pay Equity Audits


  1. Pay equity is dynamic

Every time someone is hired, leaves, gets a raise, bonus, or commission, it affects pay equity in the organization. Sometimes it's minor and does not really affect risk. Other times, the shift can amplify any bias that already exists.

For example, if everyone gets a 3% cost of living raise, the person making $50K gets a $1,500 increase while the person making $70K gets a $2,100 increase. Even though the percentages are equal, the initial gap of $20K is now the difference between $51,500 and $72,100 or $20,600. And it just gets larger with additional changes.

Small changes can create big pay disparities unless the organization regularly monitors and addresses pay equity issues.

  1. Employment attorneys understand the assignment when it comes to pay equity

Pay equity analysis involves comparing the work to determine which roles require comparable effort, skills, responsibilities and have similar working conditions. This involves judgment calls on how to group roles to compare pay.

When you find potential pay gaps, you then need to figure out whether those gaps are due to legitimate business reasons like one person has more experience or special training that justify the pay difference. This also involves judgment calls.

Often there are potential issues with women and other marginalized groups making less for the same work. It wasn't intentional, but it's real.

You need someone who understands the issues and can help you make the judgment calls. You also need good advice from someone who can assess the risk and guide you in determining what to do next.

  1. You need to maintain confidentiality of the pay equity audit process and results

Most organizations will find some potential pay equity issues. When lots of different people make hiring, promotion, and wage decisions, there are always inconsistencies. It's how humans work.

When lawyers are involved in the process to give legal advice on how to compare comparable work, pay practices, understanding and mitigating risk, and how to address any potential problems, the audit process is protected by the attorney client and work product privileges.

The underlying data about the work, pay, and people in the roles can still be discovered. But your analysis, thinking, exploration of options, and decision making will be protected if there are pay equity claims that arise.

  1. Bad fixes make pay-gap problems worse

When addressing pay gaps, it's essential to understand how they affect everyone. If you give one person a raise to bring them into the pay range for the work, how does that affect other people at the low end of the same range? Do you end up with a situation where the new man is now making more than the women who have more experience? What if the new man is Hispanic and the women are Black, White, and over 40? Does the pay make sense based on legitimate business reasons or does it appear that one group consistently makes more than others?

Even pay adjustments that seem equal can amplify bias. A 3% cost of living increase for everyone can effectively widen pay gaps. If we expand our example from earlier in this article, what if a the person making $50K who received a raise of $1,500 was a woman, and the person making $70K who received a $2,100 raise was a man? Now, instead of a $20K pay difference, it's $20,600. Not only does that create a bigger pay gap, but it could move us further away from our gender equity goals because the difference widens with every percentage increase.

Your employment attorney can help you walk through your pay practices, any proposed decisions, and help you prevent making small and seemingly straight-forward solutions into bigger problems.

  1. Your attorneys are there to help and protect the organization

Legal is known for saying, “No,” and worrying too much about scary things that may never happen. Attorneys are often perceived as an obstacle instead of a partner.

Sometimes it's even true.

But there's usually a good reason attorneys are cautious. They are there to have your back, understand and address risk, and ensure compliance with laws you many not even know exist.

Equally important is that preventing problems takes a lot less time and resources than dealing with them after it's too late.

Your legal team will try to understand what you want and need to do and help you navigate a path to accomplish your objectives. They are there to help you and the organization succeed at providing great products and services to your clients while helping create a great and fair place to work.

Give your attorneys a call. They are happy to help you, especially with something as important as a pay equity audit.


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about the author
Heather Bussing is a California employment lawyer and analyst in the HRTech industry. She writes regularly at and loves helping organizations prevent problems and build more human friendly workplaces. She also loves photography and posts a landscape every morning on twitter @heatherbussing.

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