Robin Wright’s Equal Pay Victory Highlights the Gender Wage Gap

Those who watch Netflix’s popular TV show House of Cards know that First Lady Claire Underwood will stand up to anyone, from members of Congress to the Russian President. Robin Wright, the actor who plays Mrs. Underwood, recently followed in her character’s footsteps when she stood up for equal pay for women.

Wright’s salary was less than the estimated $500,000 per episode earned by her co-star Kevin Spacey, who plays President Frank Underwood, despite the fact that Wright stars in every episode, serves as an executive producer on the show, and has directed seven episodes over the show’s four seasons.

Wright told an audience at a Rockefeller Center event last week that when she saw statistics that her character was more popular than Spacey’s, she decided to act.

“So I capitalized on that moment,” Wright told the crowd. “I was like, ‘You better pay me or I’m going to go public.’ And they did.”

Unfortunately, pay inequality goes far beyond Hollywood. Just last month members of the U.S. Women’s Soccer team filed a complaint against the U.S. Soccer Federation alleging that they earn roughly 40 percent of what the men’s soccer players earn, demanding equal pay for equal work, and calling for an investigation into U.S. Soccer’s discriminatory pay practices. American women who work full-time, year-round are paid only 78 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. That wage gap is even more significant for women of color, where African American women earn only 64 cents and Latina women earn only 55 cents for each dollar earned by their male counterparts.

For women without the public profile of Wright, the Equal Pay Act (EPA) serves as legal recourse for pay inequality. The EPA prohibits pay discrimination on the basis of gender, requiring employers to pay similarly situated employees the same wage regardless of whether the employee is a male or female. For example, recently Correia & Puth client Mary Tappmeyer settled her case against the University of North Florida, where she was the women’s basketball coach and alleged, among other things, that she was paid significantly less than her male counterpart, the men’s basketball coach.

The law focuses on job content, not job titles, to determine whether jobs are substantially equal. The EPA provides that employers may not pay unequal wages to men and women who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility, and that are performed under similar working conditions within the same establishment.

Wright’s victory in securing her equal pay is an important one, but is just one small step in closing the gender wage gap.