Today, the President continues to advocate for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, a comprehensive bill that strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which made it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who perform substantially equal work. The Paycheck Fairness Act is commonsense legislation that, among other things, would achieve the following:
- Better align key Equal Pay Act defenses with those in Title VII.
- Bring remedies available under the Equal Pay Act into line with remedies available under other civil rights laws.
- Make the requirements for class action lawsuits under the Equal Pay Act match those of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
- Protect employees who share their own salary information at work from retaliation by an employer.
The existing legal tools available to remedy pay discrimination are not enough, so Congress needs to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act now.
From the beginning of his administration, President Obama has worked to ensure that women are paid fairly for their work. The President is committed to securing equal pay for equal work because it’s essential that we build an economy where everyone gets a fair shot. American families and the health of our nation’s economy depend on it.
According to the latest U.S. Census statistics, on average, full-time working women earned 77 cents to every dollar earned by men for equivalent work, and the gap is significantly more for women of color, with African-American women earning 64 cents and Latina women earning 56 cents for every dollar earned by a Caucasian man.
No matter how you evaluate the data, there remains a pay gap—even after factoring in the kind of work people do, or qualifications such as education and experience. In other words, pay discrimination is a real and persistent problem that continues to shortchange American women and their families.
This gap is more than a mere statistic. It has real-life consequences. Women, who compose nearly half of the workforce, are bringing home 23 percent less than their male counterparts – which means less for families’ everyday needs, less for investments in our children’s futures, and, when added up over a lifetime of work, substantially less for retirement. Indeed, if the earnings gap is not corrected, according to U.S. Census data, by the age of 65 years, the average working woman would have lost more than $430,000 over her working lifetime. When women earn less than their fair share, that loss not only harms women, but also weakens families, communities, and our entire economy.
Under the President’s leadership, this Administration has made significant progress to bridge the gender pay gap:
- The very first bill that President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which extended the time period in which claimants can bring pay discrimination claims, enabling countless victims of pay discrimination to seek redress where they otherwise could not. The Ledbetter Act supersedes the Supreme Court's decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc., 550 U.S. 618 (2007), which had required a compensation discrimination charge to be filed within 180 days of any discriminatory pay decision. The unfortunate result of this ruling was to put justice out of reach for many victims of pay discrimination, because employees rarely know so quickly that they are being paid in a discriminatory manner. This was the case for Lilly Ledbetter, who made less than her male colleagues doing the same jobs for over a decade before someone left her an anonymous note informing her of this inequity.
- In 2010, the President pledged to crack down on violations of equal pay laws and, that same year, established the National Equal Pay Task Force. The Task Force, which consists of professionals at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor and the Office of Personnel Management, has improved enforcement of equal pay laws and improved efficiency and efficacy by enhancing federal interagency collaboration. Under this Administration, the government has recovered unprecedented monetary recoveries, and investments in education and outreach for both employers and employees are paying huge dividends. To learn more about the Task Force’s work, see the recently released Equal Pay Task Force Accomplishments Report: Fighting for Fair Pay in the Workplace.
- In April, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis announced the winners of the “Equal Pay App Challenge.” The Department of Labor, in conjunction with the Equal Pay Task Force, launched this challenge earlier this year – inviting software developers to use publicly available data and resources to create applications that provide greater access to pay data organized by gender, race, and ethnicity; provide interactive tools for early career coaching or online mentoring; or provide data to help inform pay negotiations. A solution to the pay gap has been elusive, in part because access to basic information – e.g., typical salary ranges and skill level requirements for particular positions, or advice on how to negotiate appropriate pay – is limited. Because of the enthusiastic response to the “Equal Pay App Challenge” and the creative apps that were developed, anyone with a smartphone, tablet or computer will be able to access answers to these basic, but important, questions. This challenge represents just one more way that the Administration is empowering women with the tools they need to make sure they get equal pay for equal work.