Economy Labor Rights

Congress Introduces Paycheck Fairness Act to Prevent Pay Discrimination

The Paycheck Fairness Act of 2019 was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate on Wednesday, giving women stronger protections against sex-based pay discrimination and helping ensure pay equity for all women.

On the 10 year anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Sen. Patty Muarray (D-Wash.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act to provide women with legal tools to challenge pay discrimination and incentives for employers to comply with the law. The proposed bill both closes loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and complements the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which ensured that workers can challenge pay discrimination.

The act would protect employees from retaliation for sharing salaries with colleagues as well as prohibit employers from demanding salary history during the hiring process. In addition, the act would require the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to collect data from employers on compensation and require employers to prove discrepancies in pay are for legitimate reasons.

On the federal level, the battle for gender pay equity has been waged for over 60 years now. The first Equal Pay Law was signed by President Kennedy in 1963, making it illegal to pay women less money for doing the same job as men. However, a Supreme Court ruling later limited the amount of time that a woman could file a wage discrimination suit against her employer to within 180 days of the first discriminatory pay check. In 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, allowing women to file suit for wage discrimination no matter how much time had passed since the discrimination first began.

The Paycheck Fairness Act has been introduced in Congress several times since 1997, with Republicans filibustering and blocking the bill each time.

According to the Association of American University Women, women currently make an average of 80 cents to a man’s dollar, but the racial disparity in the gender wage gap is vast. Compared to white men, Asian women earned 90 percent, white (non-Hispanic) women earned 76 percent, black women earned 63 percent, Hawaiian/Pacific Islander women earned 60 percent, American Indian women earned 58 percent and Hispanic/Latina women earned 53 percent.

“It’s time we strengthen our equal pay laws,” said Lilly Ledbetter, the plaintiff in the Supreme Court discrimination case that led to the Fair Pay Act of 2009. “Women and their families literally can’t afford to wait any longer.”

Media Resources: ACLU 1/30/19; Globe Newswire 1/20/19; CBS News 1/30/19; Feminist Newswire 8/7/18; Feminist Newswire 4/4/17; CNN 1/30/19

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