This Law Could Make Equal Pay for Equal Work a Reality
Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in 2009, which reset the statute of limitations for a female employee to file a complaint over pay disparities after every paycheck. However, despite this and other efforts to close the gender gap in pay, in 2010 women still made only 77 cents for every dollar that a man earns.
And young women only have to wait just one year out of college to feel the economic brunt of institutionalized gender pay gaps. Recent female graduates working full time earn an average of only 82 cents for every dollar of what their male counterparts earn, and as the Association of American University Women (AAUW) pointed out in their report (and the video below highlights), this early gender gap makes women's ability to repay their student loans more precarious.
During his second term, President Obama has emphasized the importance of equal pay for equal work, using his State of the Union address to call on Congress "to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year."
"Any effort to make the workplace more fair is a great thing for young people who are just entering the work force," said Sarah Scanlon, deputy director of the Labor Training Program at Wellstone Action. "This bill is a great example of Senator Paul Wellstone's belief that we all do better when we all do better."
Sen. Barbara Mikulski's (D-Md.) Paycheck Fairness Act represents another important step toward eliminating pay disparities between men and women. Failing passage of the bill, Sen. Mikulski has also called for an executive order from President Obama that would provide the same protections of the bill for employees who disclose pay information.
The key provisions of the act, which would benefit both male and female workers and make it easier for women to file pay disparity lawsuits, would:
- Guarantee against employer retaliation if an employee openly discusses their pay rate with other employees
- Require employers to demonstrate that any disparities in pay between male and female employees are due to a reason other than gender
- Re-instate the collection of wage-related data with the assurance that employees administering that program will be well trained and able to enforce the new law
In 2012, the last time the Paycheck Fairness Act was introduced, the bill failed in the Senate after receiving only 52 votes, falling 8 votes shy of passage, with a vote split down party lines.
“It’s simply not fair that any woman working the same hours in the same job should make less money than her male coworker,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, calling for the passage of this iteration of the Paycheck Fairness Act. “Unfortunately, this common-sense legislation was blocked by a Republican filibuster last Congress.”
Molly Miller is a reporter for Campus Progress.