Senate Democrats

Reid, Mikulski, DeLauro Mark Equal Pay Day By Introducing Bill To Close Pay Gap For Women

Paycheck Fairness Act Strengthens Federal Pay Equity Laws

Washington, D.C. – In honor of Equal Pay Day, Nevada Senator Harry Reid joined Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) today in introducing the Paycheck Fairness Act to strengthen federal pay equity laws and ensure equal pay for equal work. Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced the bill in the House of Representatives. Equal Pay Day is the day that represents how far into 2011 women have to work to earn what men earned in 2010.

“Every week the average American woman must work seven days to take home the same paycheck it takes a man only five days to earn. Sadly, this benchmark represents progress,” Senator Reid said. “That’s why we must all work harder every day, including Equal Pay Day, to ensure every American’s salary is determined by skill rather than gender. The Paycheck Fairness Act is an important step toward eliminating gender pay discrepancies in the workplace, which is more important than ever as more women become the dominant breadwinners for Nevada families.”

“Women make this country run – we are business leaders, entrepreneurs, politicians, mothers and more,” Senator Mikulski said. “We also bring home a growing share of the family pocketbook. But we earn just 77 cents for every dollar our male counterpart makes, and women of color get even less. Inexplicably, these disparities exist across all levels of education and occupation.  In Maryland, the average woman has to receive a bachelor’s degree before she earns as much as the average male high school graduate. This is unacceptable, and with many Americans earning less and operating on smaller family budgets, the issue of pay equity is being felt now more than ever. “

The Senate bill is co-sponsored by Senators Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

In 2009, Senator Reid helped lead the effort in the Senate to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which increased protections for individuals facing pay discrimination.  But according to U.S. Census data, women are still paid 77 cents on the dollar for the same job as men. The Paycheck Fairness Act builds on the promise of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and helps close the pay gap by empowering women to negotiate for equal pay, closing loopholes courts have created in the law, creating strong incentives for employers to obey the laws and strengthening federal outreach and enforcement efforts.

Specifically, the legislation:

·         Clarifies the ‘any factor other than sex’ defense so an employer trying to justify paying a man more than a woman for the same job must show the disparity is not sex-based; is job related and is necessary for the business.

·         Prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who discuss or disclose salary information with their co-workers.

·         Strengthens the remedies available to include punitive and compensatory damages. Under the EPA currently, plaintiffs can only recover back pay or, in some cases, double back pay. The bill would ensure that women can receive the same remedies for pay discrimination that are available under other laws for discrimination based on race and national origin.

·         Requires the Department of Labor to improve outreach and training efforts to work with employers in order to eliminate pay disparities.

·         Enhances the collection of information on women’s and men’s wages in order to more fully explore the reasons for the wage gap and help employers in addressing pay disparities.

·        Creates a new grant program to help strengthen the negotiation skills of girls and women.