AMERICA’S WORKING FAMILIES NEED THE PAYCHECK FAIRNESS ACT Source: AAUW
Equal pay for women is critical to families’ economic security and our nation’s economic recovery. Women’s wages are critical to putting food on families’ tables and keeping roofs over their heads. For the first time, American women make up roughly half of the nation’s workforce: nearly four in ten mothers are primary breadwinners in their households and nearly two-thirds are significant earners. Women should be able to bring home everything they have rightfully earned.
Yet in 2009, women working full-time, year-round were still paid about 77 cents on average for every dollar paid to men – a figure unchanged from 2008.
• African American women were paid only 62 cents, and Latinas only 53 cents, for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men.
• The wage gap persists for women and men with the same levels of education, in the same fields of work and even in the same jobs
• On average, the pay gap translates into $10,849 a year or over $430,000 in lost earnings over a woman’s lifetime. That translates to months of food bills, mortgage payments, rent and thousands of gallons of gas, lost to American families at a time when they’re struggling and the economy desperately needs their consumer spending.
The Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 12) passed the House of Representatives in January 2009 with a bipartisan vote, 256-163. This bill is a much needed modernization of the 47-year-old Equal Pay Act, bringing the law’s principles and practices in line with the nation’s other civil rights laws.
Americans across the political spectrum strongly support a new law to strengthen our equal pay efforts. In a recent national survey, 84% of registered voters supported such a law and 72% strongly supported such a law. Americans across gender, racial, political, and regional lines expressed strong support.
It is time to get on the right side of history. Congress passed the Equal Pay Act to ensure that women and men would earn the same pay for the same work. We still haven’t realized the promise of the law. Decades later, loopholes in the law and its anemic penalties allow some unscrupulous employers to not only skirt the law, but view the low risk of penalties as simply the cost of doing business. It’s time for Senators to join together and take another step forward for women and the families that depend upon them. Our nation and our economy cannot afford to have women shortchanged any longer.
MAJOR PROVISIONS OF THE PAYCHECK FAIRNESS ACT
The Paycheck Fairness Act updates and strengthens the Equal Pay Act. The bill creates stronger incentives for employers to follow the law, closes loopholes in existing protections and gives women additional tools to help fight pay discrimination. Specifically, the Paycheck Fairness Act would:
• Close loopholes in the law so employers must have a legitimate business reason for paying women less for the same work. The legislation clarifies acceptable reasons for differences in pay by requiring employers to demonstrate that wage gaps between men and women doing the same work have a business justification and are truly a result of factors other than sex.
• Prohibit employers from retaliating against workers who discuss their salary with co-workers. It’s difficult for workers to learn how their pay compares with fellow employees; indeed, many employers prohibit employees from discussing their salaries. This is exactly what happened to Lilly Ledbetter—because Goodyear prohibited employees from discussing or sharing their wages, she did not know of the discrimination against her until long after it began. Allowing workers to discuss their salaries without fear of losing their jobs will help women to know whether or not they’re being treated equally.
• Level the playing field for employers, so the ones who pay fairly are not at a disadvantage. The Paycheck Fairness Act will help level the playing field by ensuring that women are compensated fairly when they have been discriminated against, and can obtain the same remedies as those employees subject to wage discrimination on the basis of race or national origin. Existing requirements for proving such damages and the limits set by the courts will, of course, remain in place.
• Modernize the Equal Pay Act enforcement.
o The Paycheck Fairness Act would encourage proactive enforcement of equal pay laws by re-instating the collection wage-related data and providing for training for the workers who enforce our equal pay laws.
o The bill would also update the Equal Pay Act to make it more in line with the class action procedures available under Title VII. It would not extend class action protections beyond what is available under other antidiscrimination laws.
o And the bill eliminates artificial geographic limits, allowing a woman to reasonably compare her salary to male colleagues with the same employer, so long as the facilities are in similar geographic regions.
• Provide important safeguards for small businesses.
o The Equal Pay Act has an exemption for small businesses that make less than $500,000 in annual revenues a year, and the Paycheck Fairness Act would keep that exemption intact.
o In addition, the Paycheck Fairness Act would not go into effect until six months from the time of enactment, and requires the Department of Labor to educate small businesses about what is required under the law and assist them with compliance.
o The bill also recognizes employers for excellence in their pay practices, strengthens federal outreach and assistance to all businesses to help improve equal pay practices, and implements a training program to empower women to negotiate for fair pay.