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

On August 16, 2011 OPM Director John Berry and EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien issued a memorandum to all civilian federal employees during EEOC's Examining Conflicts in Employment Law (EXCEL) conference in Baltimore. The memorandum promises “the most rigorous possible enforcement of our federal equal pay laws in federal sector employment” (see http://www.eeoc.gov/federal/memo_epa.cfm). The memorandum cites President Obama's 2010 State of the Union address, after which a National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force representing collaboration between the OPM, EEOC, and the Departments of Labor and Justice was created. Also, in a proclamation issued by Obama on 7/2010, April 20 was declared “National Equal Pay Day”, since it marks the point in time when women’s wages catch up to men’s wages from the prior year. It was in that Proclamation that Obama requested the OPM and EEOC work together to “implement a strategy to improve the federal government's role as a model employer” (138 DLR AA-1, 7/20/10).

The Berry/Berrien memorandum cites findings from a 2009 GAO report showing that the “gender wage gap” decreased from 1998 to 2007 from 28 cents to 11 cents on the dollar. However, the GAO report also states that there remains a 7-cent gap after factors such as occupations, experience, and education levels are statistically controlled for.

The Berry/Berrien memorandum promises to rigorously enforce the Equal Pay Act, which requires equal pay for men and women for substantially equal work, including salary, overtime pay, bonuses, and all benefits. It also cites Title VII, which, among other things, proscribes pay discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Berrien noted that “We cannot achieve our national commitment to equal employment opportunity until women are included as equal partners in every workplace, including the federal government” and that “the federal government should be a model employer in every regard—including equal pay.”

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