PROPOSED LEGISLATION FOCUSES ON WORKPLACE COMPENSATION DISCRIMINATION

by Patricia A. Schaeffer, Vice President-Regulatory Affairs

Legislation was introduced in the U.S. House and Senate on March 6, 2007 designed to eliminate wage discrimination and pay disparities in the workplace.

The proposed “Paycheck Fairness Act” (S. 766 and H.R. 1338) is intended to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, and for other purposes.

The Bills

Senate: S. 766 was sponsored by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and has 17 cosponsors. The bill is currently pending in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Hearings on the bill are expected to be held in April 2007.

House: H.R. 1338 was sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and has 55 cosponsors. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and Labor.

Summary of Key Provisions

  • Creates a training program to help women strengthen negotiation skills and requires the Department of Labor to provide outreach and technical assistance to employers to ensure they fairly evaluate and pay their employees.

  • Increases the penalties for employers that violate the Equal Pay Act and changes the requirement for the affirmative defense used to defend against wage discrimination claims;

  • Prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information with co-workers

  • Allows women to sue for punitive damages in addition to the compensatory damages now available under the Equal Pay Act.

  • Recognizing those employers that have made great strides in eradicating unfair pay disparities in the workplace by establishing the Secretary of Labor’s “National Award for Pay Equity in the Workplace.”

Both bills specifically state that “With a stronger commitment by the Department of Labor to its responsibilities, increased information about the provisions added by the Equal Pay Act of 1963, wage data, and more effective remedies, women will be better able to recognize and enforce their rights.”

DCI will continue to monitor and update clients on this important legislation.

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