"Pay equity" or "comparable worth" are terms that have come to stand for the notion that people should be paid equally for jobs of similar skill levels, training requirements, and responsibility, regardless of their race, sex, creed, or color. Comparable worth has been called the job issue of the eighties. The first half of the decade witnessed a surge of activity around the issue in the courts, in legislative arenas, and at the bargaining table.
Although two of the original lawsuits establishing the grounds for comparable worth involved private-sector employers,1 most activity to date has dealt with public-sector employees. Recently, however, the notion of pay equity has gained renewed attention in the private sector as well. As economic shifts diminish the number of well-paid manufacturing jobs, lower-paid jobs in ser vices and related sectors, traditionally employing high concentra tions of women, become relatively more important to households and communities. The pressure is growing for private as well as public employers to redress discriminatory wage scales that have evolved in the workplace.