A much-needed updated of the 47-year-old Equal Pay Act, the Paycheck Fairness Act (S.797) is a comprehensive bill that would create stronger incentives for employers to follow the law, empower women to negotiate for equal pay, and strengthen federal outreach, education and enforcement efforts. Championed by longtime AAUW friend Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), the bill would also deter wage discrimination by strengthening penalties for equal pay violations and by prohibiting retaliation against workers who ask about employers' wage practices or disclose their own wages. Together with the Ledbetter bill, this critical piece of legislation can help create a climate where pay discrimination is not tolerated, and give the new administration the enforcement tools it needs to make real progress on pay equity.
With a record number of women in the workforce, wage discrimination hurts the majority of American families, both in terms of their economic security today and their retirement security tomorrow. Due to rising employment rates, an unprecedented number of women are now the family breadwinner - making pay equity even more critical, not simply to family economic security, but also to the nation's economic recovery.
The Paycheck Fairness Act, which will be reintroduced by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), would provide the first-ever update to the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA).The EPA made it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who perform substantially the same work. The Paycheck Fairness Act would close loopholes in the EPA that have diluted its effectiveness in combating unfair and unequal pay. While the EPA has helped to narrow the wage gap between men and women in our workforce, significant disparities remain and need to be addressed. Due to the importance of this bill for millions of women and working families, we urge Senators to support the Paycheck Fairness Act.
Today symbolizes how far into 2011 women must work to earn what men earned in 2010. Every year, April 12 is commemorated as Equal Pay Day, a reminder that nonunion women workers are still at a disadvantage. Over a lifetime, this pay inequity can cost women between $375,00 to $1.5 million. Since women’s incomes account for one-third of their family’s take-home-pay, it has a significant impact on their families as well.
Actress and writer Marlo Thomas points out today in Huffington Post :
...National Equal Pay Day. I can't believe we're having another one. I still have my little green button from 1970 -- with "59¢" emblazoned on it -- tacked to my bulletin board. I remember how we all wore that button on our t-shirts as we marched to protest the gender pay disparity of that time. Now we're at 77 cents.
Forty years and 18 cents. A dozen eggs has gone up 10 times that amount.
The Paycheck Fairness Act, which failed to pass the U.S. Senate last year, is being reintroduced today by Sens. Barbara Mikulski and Rosa L. DeLauro. The Act would make it harder for employers to pay unequal pay for equal work; remove obstacles to class action lawsuits based on gender discrimination; and ensure the Department of Labor uses its full investigatory tools to uncover pay discrimination.
The Paycheck Fairness Act provides a much needed update to the Equal Pay Act of 1963 – a law that has not been able to achieve its promise of closing the wage gap because of limited enforcement tools and inadequate remedies. Specifically, the Paycheck Fairness Act would:
• require employers to demonstrate that wage differences between men and women doing the same work have a business justification and stem from factors other than sex;
• prohibit retaliation against workers who inquire about their employers’ wage practices or disclose their own wages, while also protecting certain confidential wage information;
• level the playing field by ensuring that women can obtain the same remedies as those subject to discrimination on the basis of race or national origin;
• encourage proactive enforcement of equal pay laws by re-instating the collection of wage-related data and providing for training for the workers who enforce our equal pay laws; and
• provide important safeguards for businesses, including:
o providing an exemption for small businesses;
o instituting a six months waiting period from the time of enactment and requiring the Department of Labor to assist small businesses with compliance; and
o recognizing employers for excellence in their pay practices and strengthening federal outreach and assistance to all businesses to help improve equal pay practices.