Pay equity self-audits are popular now; but they shouldn't be a DIY task.

Both the EEOC and Democratic leaders in Congress have signaled that they will push efforts in the coming months to ensure that women are paid as much as men for equal work.

For that reason, many companies are taking the proactive step of running self-audits of their organizations' pay practices to identify gender-based disparities.

But beware conducting your own pay audit. If you do, and an employee sues you for wage-and-hour violations, a court may compel you to provide the audit's findings to the employees' attorneys.

You can minimize this possibility by retaining an attorney to conduct your pay audit. That way, your company can claim the attorney-client privilege or the work-product privilege. A court can't force you to turn over audit records.

You probably won't be able to work with the attorneys as they conduct their audit, so steer them in the right direction beforehand. Before turning the audit over to your lawyers:

Analyze job descriptions. The duties outlined in descriptions should be the same as those employees really perform. Too often, duties change in reality, but not on paper. Have employees complete a job description survey.

Test employees' status. Employees classified as exempt must meet the criteria for their exemption--administrative, executive, professional, computer or outside sales.

Review overtime calculations. Certain items must be included in employees' regular rates (e.g., incentive bonuses); other items may be excluded from employees' regular rates (e.g., vacation pay).

If your audit uncovers wage-and-hour irregularities, act to correct them in a nonconfrontational and timely manner. Courts will look favorably on your proactive efforts to identify and fix errors.

Online resource In addition to federal law, many states have their own equal pay laws. For a state-by-state chart, go to

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