On April 12, 2014, former President Obama addressed the nation and underscored the importance of ensuring equal pay for equal work and highlighted the steps his Administration had taken to expand opportunity and narrow the pay gap that exists between men and women.
At the same time, on Equal Pay Day, the President took action to increase transparency and make it easier to recognize pay discrimination.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2012, women who worked full time earned, on average, only 77 cents for every dollar man earned. The figures are even worse for women of color. African American women earned only approximately 64 cents and Latinas only 54 cents for each dollar earned by a white male.
In Congress, pending legislation for many years, entitled “The Paycheck Fairness Act”, sponsored by Sen. Barbara Mikulski intends to make it illegal for employers to retaliate against a worker who inquires about or discloses her or his wages or the wages of another employee in a complaint or investigation.
It also would make employers liable to civil actions. And as part of this bill, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission would be required to collect pay information from employers.
The bill would update 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. The Paycheck Fairness Act would make critical changes to the law.
Forty-nine years later, the time is well past the time to make equal pay a reality.
When women succeed, our families succeed and America succeeds. President Obama believed that ensuring that women earn equal pay for equal work is essential to improving the economic security of our families and the growth of our middle class and our economy. Women compose nearly half of the American workforce.
Since day one, President Obama had been laser-focused on ensuring women have the fundamental rights they deserve when it comes to earning a fair and equal wage.
The first piece of legislation that the President signed into law after taking office was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which empowers women to recover wages lost to discrimination by extending the time period in which an employee can file a claim.
Yet a central challenge that remains to enforcing equal pay laws is that many women do not even know that they are underpaid, and therefore cannot take steps to ensure equal pay for equal work.
Advocates for pay equity say that a major challenge to enforcing equal pay laws is secrecy about what people are paid. Some employers maintain policies that punish workers who voluntarily share salary information with coworkers, according to the National Women’s Law Center.
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