With Lilly Ledbetter at his side, President Obama will announce two executive actions tomorrow to mark Equal Pay Day while urging the Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this week.
The bill would “revise remedies for, enforcement of, and exceptions to prohibitions against sex discrimination in the payment of wages” and “revises the exception to the prohibition for a wage rate differential based on any other factor other than sex. Limits such factors to bona fide factors, such as education, training, or experience.”
Critics say the bill would constrain merit pay, hamper flexibility for working mothers, and put undue burdens on employers.
The main sponsor, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), had been urging Obama to take executive action along with Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), sponsor of the House version. Obama’s order will prohibit federal contractors from retaliating against employees who choose to discuss their compensation and will collect information from federal contractors on pay broken down by sex and race.
“I applaud President Obama’s decision to take executive action to ensure that contractors doing business with the United States government are not retaliating against hardworking Americans seeking equal pay for equal work. I urged President Obama to take this important step while we work to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act in Congress so that women fighting for equal pay will no longer be fighting on their own,” Mikulski said in a statement.
“It’s been more than half a century since the Equal Pay Act but women still make just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. Women should no longer be sidelined, redlined or pink slipped,” she added. “I call on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act so we can put change in the lawbooks and change into checkbooks of working families across America.”
DeLauro and Mikulski argue that the wage gap costs women $434,000 over their careers.
“Tomorrow we mark Equal Pay Day, the day when an average woman’s earnings finally catch up to what her male colleagues made the prior year,” DeLauro said. “A key part of ending what President Kennedy called the ‘serious and endemic’ problem of unequal wages is having the knowledge that you are being paid less in the first place.”
The congresswoman noted that Ledbetter’s case began when the former Goodyear plant supervisor found out she was being paid less because of an anonymous note, so “in order to detect and combat pay discrimination, employees must be able to share salary information with their coworkers without fear of punishment.”
“I constantly hear from women across the country that unequal pay continues to happen and is hard to uncover,” she said. “This is not just about women; it is about ensuring families, who are more reliant on women’s wages than ever, are not being shortchanged. Collecting data is a necessary step if we are to identify and end patterns of pay disparity. I am pleased the Labor Department will be taking steps to finally deal with this scourge head-on. And I could not applaud more strongly the President’s Executive Order banning retaliation among federal contractors. Now Congress needs to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act so we can ensure women succeed and America succeeds.”
The 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act overturned the 180-day statute of limitations for women to contest pay discrimination. It was the first bill Obama signed and Ledbetter worked for him on the 2012 campaign trail.