Employment Law Questions? Ask an Employment Lawyer.
As with employees in any private or state employement situation (although the steps to pursue discrimination claims (may differ for employees of private versus public employers) instructors in a university or college can normally pursue discrimination claims against their employer if unequal compensation or other unequal treatment is based on gender, race, ethnicity, and other "protected" reasons). If a claim is against a state employer, such as a state university, then a person with a suit against them may need to use a special court reserved just for cases against the state and may need to follow specific state regulatory channels, but claims are possible.
If you believe you have a claim you can contact the IL Dept. of Human Rights here for information and/or speak to an attorney who works in the areas of employment law or discrimination law to explain your concerns and your case and to have then review your options and help you file your claim if you decide to do so. Also, discrmination cases only have a limited amount of time during which they can be filed in (normally only 180 days or so), so you should speak to an attorney ASAP to fully evaluate your rights and obligations.
While basing payment or opportunity decision in an employment setting is against the law, simply paying less due to different job titles, particularly when different experience is often required to reach a different title, is not normally an illegal process. Sometimes prior state decisions may, however, have provided opinions on just such a case, so a conversation with the IL Dept. of Human Rights may still be a good resource. In addition, if those who are paid less do have a feature which makes them subject to discrimination laws "protected status" (which normally are race, religion, disability, age (if over 40), color, ethnicity, gender, pregnancy) then that may also allow for a possible claim.
The American legal theory of employment has always viewed the relationship between employer and employee as one between equal where each can negotiate for what they want from each other. True, that may not be the reality, but in a sense both parties exchange something of value (talent for money, etc.) with each other and both have the freedom to change their minds, as in employees can quit and employers can fire.
Salaries or wages are one of the items expected to be negotiated and, in negotiations, if conducted fairly, some parties may still obtain better results than others. That alone is not a legally correctable matter. However, there may be facts here which someone like me, online and only obtaining a very limited amount of information can be able to learn and speak about to provide information on. There may be certain aspects which we have not discussed that may affect the legal abilities for redress here which my limited view cannot provide information about. There is often, in situations where beliefs of unfairness exist, the potential for legal redress, but you may need to speak, privately with an attorney in your state who works in employment areas so you and he/she can thoroughly discuss any potential abilities for a claim. For example, if there are any employer documents which promise or indicate that salaries will be equal or based on similar factors that may create a contractual breach claim for failure to honor such promise or policy.
For legislative interest, I cannot speak to but you can contact your own legislators, or their aides and offices, to discuss this issue with them and see if they can work with you on a proposal of some kind.
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