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NAW News

Paycheck Fairness

- April 2015

On March 25, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-3) reintroduced the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Senate bill (S 862) is cosponsored by 14 Democratic Senators four of whom (plus Senator Mikulski) are members of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee to which the bill is referred. The House bill (HR 1619) is cosponsored by 187 Democratic Members including 14 of 15 Democratic Members of the Education and Workforce Committee which has jurisdiction.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees for discussing/sharing pay information with one another. It would place the burden on employers to show that any disparities in pay for workers who do the same job are based on a “bona fide factor other than sex.” And it would provide punitive damages when the worker shows “that an employer has acted with malice or reckless indifference.” Thus, employers are concerned that the Paycheck Fairness Act will breed discontent in the workplace and will lead to costly litigation.

NAW has long opposed the bill, the justification for which is grounded in Census Bureau data that reveals that women earn 77 cents per every dollar earned by a man. This statistic does not take into consideration disparities in hours worked, choice of occupation, education, and uninterrupted years of work. A federal Office of Personnel Management (OPM) study release on April 11th reveals a gender-based pay gap of 12.7% among federal employees in 37 white collar job categories, down from 19.8% in 2002 and 30% in 1992. The report noted that “differences in the distribution of males and females across occupational categories appear to explain much of the pay gap.” The OPM report went on to acknowledge that while “some portion of the male-female pay gap is unexplained … that does not mean that the unexplained gap is necessarily attributable to discrimination.”

It is important to note that two federal statutes – the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – outlaw and sanction pay discrimination.

The Paycheck Fairness Act is not expected to advance in either house of the Republican-controlled 114th Congress despite approval of a non-binding amendment to the FY ’16 Budget Resolution in the Senate offered by Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE). A more sweeping symbolic budget amendment offered by Senator Mikulski which encompassed the substance of the Paycheck Fairness Act, was defeated.