DEMOCRATIC LEGISLATORS REINTRODUCE PAYCHECK FAIRNESS ACT

by Art Gutman Ph.D., Professor, Florida Institute of Technology

We’ve reported on the past attempts to enact the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA) in at leaset a dozen Alerts. By design, the PFA would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by, among other things, prohibiting retaliation against employees who disclose their salaries to co-workers (which is banned in many companies). The PFA would force employers to show that wage discrepancies are job-related rather than gender based, and would have prohibitions for retaliation against individuals who raise wage disparity claims, who help women develop negotiating skills, and would require further research to understand why woman earn 77 cents on average to similarly situated males. Although much of this is already covered in the Equal Pay Act (also an FLSA amendment), it would go further and allow compensatory and punitive damages in addition to the back pay awards currently available in the Equal Pay Act. It would also require the DOL and EEOC to provide training and outreach programs on pay equity.

The most recent attempt to pass the PFA was blocked in June 2012 when the Senate failed to muster 60 votes needed to bring it to a floor vote. The vote was 52 to 47, with all Republican Senators voting nay (including five female Senators). No doubt this is a politically charged issue. For example, after the failed Senate vote, President Obama stated:

This afternoon, Senate Republicans refused to allow an up-or-down vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, a commonsense piece of legislation that would strengthen the Equal Pay Act and give women more tools to fight pay discrimination, It is incredibly disappointing that in this make-or-break moment for the middle class, Senate Republicans put partisan politics ahead of American women and their families." 

According to BNA sources, the most recent bill mimics the prior bills, and was introduced again on January 23 by Senator Barbara Mikulski and Representative Rosa DeLauro, ardent proponents of past attempts to pass the PFA. Senator Milulski was quoted as saying:

Four years after the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was signed into law to keep the courthouse doors open, it's time to finish the job and stop wage discrimination from happening in the first place. Equal pay is not just for our pocketbooks, it's about family checkbooks and getting it right in the law books. The Paycheck Fairness Act ensures that women will no longer be fighting on their own for equal pay for equal work. 

Congresswoman DeLauro was quoted as saying:

It's time to finish the job and stop wage discrimination from happening in the first place. Equal pay is not just for our pocketbooks, it's about family checkbooks and getting it right in the law books. The Paycheck Fairness Act ensures that women will no longer be fighting on their own for equal pay for equal work. 

The bills are as yet unnumbered. I Have to confess, I don’t see what’s different as compared to last June. We will keep tabs on it for you.


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