Tag Archives: Equal pay

“The progress has stalled:” WLP Managing Attorney Terry Fromson testified about Equal Pay in Pennsylvania

By Tara Murtha

“Gender-based wage discrimination is unfortunately alive and persistent in Pennsylvania,” Terry Fromson, Managing Attorney of Women’s Law Project, testified in front of the House Democratic Policy Committee in Philadelphia yesterday.

“Although significant progress was made in closing the pay gap following the adoption of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII in the 1960s, that progress has stalled. The ratio of women’s pay to men’s pay narrowed only by 1.7 percent between 2004 and 2013.”

“In Pennsylvania women working full time, year round, are paid 76 cents to the dollar paid to men,” Fromson continued. “For women of color, the gender pay differences are larger. If this slowing of progress continues, women will not achieve parity with men until 2058.”

Fromson told the Committee specific allegations of pay discrimination considered by Pennsylvania courts in the last decade:

“The female vice president whose salary was ten to twenty thousand less than the other three male vice presidents … the senior consultant who was hired at a salary $15,000 less than the man hired one month after her … a high school principal paid $10,000-$15,000 less than equally positioned male principals.”

In some cases, Fromson said, women who discovered a discrepancy have been penalized for standing up for themselves, like the “female manager who was fired when she complained about being paid $14,000 less than a similarly situated male coworker.”

Fromson took issue with the common argument that disparities in average pay for full-time work between men and women are just a result of women’s choices, such as what kind of job to pursue and having children. As Fromson pointed out, research proves that assertion wrong: the pay gap remains even when controlling for these variables.

The problem certainly isn’t education. “In the 2009-2010 academic year, women earned the majority of bachelor’s, graduate, and professional degrees,” said Fromson. “Nonetheless, one year out of college they experienced a wage gap of 82% of the wages paid to their male counterparts.”

The hearing was held to showcase support for Pennsylvania House Bill 1250. Introduced by Rep. Maria P. Donatucci (D-Delaware/Philadelphia), HB 1250 seeks to update Pennsylvania’s Equal Pay Law for the first time since 1959.

Like the federal law, Pennsylvania’s Equal Pay Law prohibits wage discrimination based on gender in the workplace when the work requires equal skill, effort and responsibility. The act also sets forth penalties for violations.

The penalties, however, have not been updated for more than 50 years. Currently, businesses found in violation are penalized $50 to $200 per day. HB 1250 would increase that fine to $400 to $1,600. Fromson, however, asked the House to increase the penalties to those set forth in the original bill: a fine between $1,000 and $25,000. Fromson also took issue with two other changes that watered down the original version of HB 1250: keeping the statute of limitations at two years instead of expanding it to three, and removing language that makes discrimination against each individual employee a separate violation.

“In light of the passage of 55 years and the persistence of wage discrimination based on sex,” Fromson urged the House to “adopt the strongest bill with the strongest deterrents and remedies to eradicate pay discrimination.”

Women’s Law Project seeks to advance the legal status of women and girls through work such as advocating for common-sense updates to Pennsylvania’s Equal Pay Act. WLP also supports new legislative initiatives such as Representative Molchany’s  and Sims’ House Bill 1890, which was recently introduced as part of the Women’s Health Agenda, a proactive, pro-choice package of legislative bills proposed by the bipartisan Women’s Health Caucus of the Pennsylvania Legislature.

“By amending Pennsylvania’s equal pay law to require greater scrutiny of pay differences, HB 1890 will insure that any differences that exist are in fact based on a bona fide factor other than sex that is job-related and consistent with business necessity,” testified Fromson. “HB 1890 will also remove the pay secrecy obstacle that prevents women from finding out if they are being paid differently.”

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Filed under Equal pay, PA Legislature

The Wage Gap Starts in Childhood

Aly Mance, WLP Intern

Parents do their best to be good role models for their children; and for generations, they have given their children chores to do in exchange for an allowance in order to teach them responsibility and work ethic.  Sadly though, at a very young age, their children are also learning firsthand about the gender wage gap.  According to a recent article in Salon, parents are inadvertently teaching their daughters that their work is worth less than that of their sons.

A 2006 study conducted by University of Michigan economists found that girls spent two more hours per week doing chores than boys in a study of 3,000 kids.  Boys are enjoying more leisure time than their sisters, an imbalance that continues into adulthood.  According to the Organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development, men “report spending more time in activities counted as leisure than women.”

Not only are boys spending less time weekly on chores than girls, they are also making more money when they do them.  Boys’ chores appear to be more profitable, and parents deem the work done by boys to be more valuable than the chores done by girls —demonstrated by the fact that boys make more money per week than girls while working 2 hours less per week.  Boys tend to be assigned jobs like mowing the lawn, taking the trash out, or shoveling snow from the driveway; whereas girls tend to do indoor chores such as washing the dishes, cleaning bedrooms, or doing the laundry.  Parents find the work that boys do outside of the home more important and valuable than the traditionally “feminine” chores that girls do within the home.

These ideas and attitudes are perpetuated into adulthood.  A study conducted by Andrew Healy and Neil Mahorta shows that men who grow up with sisters do less housework than their wives.  This suggests that the gender separated chore environment from their childhood permanently altered their conception of gender roles.  It continues to reinforce the centuries-old idea that women battle every day in the working world: women belong in the home.  By telling children that girls do the dishes while boys take out the trash and that girls sweep the floors while boys shovel the driveways, parents make it clear that girls belong in the home, while boys belong outside of it.  A woman can’t “do a man’s job,” and she will always be paid and valued less for doing the same or more work.  They make it clear to their children that a woman’s work will always carry less worth than a man’s.

So here’s what parents should be doing: equally divide up the chores and equally pay each child. The same way that chores can reinforce traditional gender roles, sexism, and society’s acceptance of the wage gap, they can be used to develop egalitarian attitudes towards gender.  Ask your daughters to mow the lawn and your sons to fold the towels.  It could help reshape society and end the idea of traditional gender roles that support the wage gap.

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Filed under Economic Justice, Equal pay, Gender Discrimination, Girls, Sexism, Wage Gap

Shout Out: “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds”

By Kaitlin Leskovac, WLP Summer Intern

Last Friday, a group of congresswomen gathered on the steps of the Capitol to announce a new economic agenda titled “When Women Succeed, America Succeeds.” The agenda addresses three areas of continued inequality and obstacles for women in the workforce: equal pay, work and family balance, and childcare.

Equal Pay: Women still make only 77 cents for every dollar that men earn. This past April 9 was deemed Equal Pay Day, a date that marks how far into 2013 women had to work to earn what men earned in 2012. We cannot stand for this date to continue to be some sort of anniversary. To address the persistent wage gap between male and female workers, our congresswomen and congressmen proffer seven solutions. The agenda calls for an increase in minimum wage; investment in job training and education opportunities for women; support for women entrepreneurs and small business owners; and adequate tools to investigate wage discrimination. In addition, the agenda calls for the protection and restoration of employment rights, including those associated with paycheck fairness and pregnant workers fairness. This agenda furthers the call to action initiated by the Equal Pay Today! Campaign, launched June 10, 2013 by fifteen national and state-based women’s rights legal organizations, including the Women’s Law Project, on the 50th Anniversary of the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

To read more about the agenda for equal pay, click here.

To read more about the Equal Pay Today! Campaign, click here.

Work & Family Balance: The U.S. currently has no policy to ensure paid sick days and has no mandatory paid family leave policy. Current policy does not suit the structure of women’s lives, which in most cases involve the majority of childrearing, caretaking and household responsibilities. The new economic agenda calls for the address of current policy deficiencies, including provisions for paid sick leave; paid family and medical leave; and paid parental leave for federal employees. Ensuring work and family balance for working women is an economic imperative, given that women are now the breadwinners in 40% of households with children under age 18.

To read more about the agenda for work/family balance, click here.

Childcare: In the U.S., there is a drastic lack of high quality and affordable childcare. It is incredible that the U.S. currently ranks 28th out of 38 countries in the share of four year-olds enrolled in preschool. This is unacceptable considering high quality child care and early learning programs are imperative if the U.S. is to maintain educational benchmarks comparable to other developed nations. Adequate funding of childcare programs, improved training and pay for childcare workers, and expansion of the 2009 Child Care Tax Credit are just some of the actions called for in the When Women Succeed, America Succeeds agenda. President Obama’s Preschool for All and Early Learning initiatives, announced earlier this year, will also be crucial for efforts to raise the standard for childcare in the U.S. Women’s gains in the workplace and the promise of additional gains in the future must be supported by a commitment to providing accessible and high quality childcare.

To read about the agenda for childcare in full, click here.

Unfortunately, many predict that the agenda is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled House. However, we can no longer afford to neglect the economic rights of women. Women have a right to equal pay for equal work, plain and simple. Furthermore, the persistent institutionalized sexism in many work environments is based in part on gender role stereotypes that label women as caregivers. As a result of policy loopholes and inadequacies, talented women are deprived opportunities to participate in the workplace on equal footing with men. When Women Succeed, America Succeeds is a productive step in outlining the connections between women’s economic status and the greater well-being of our children and the nation as a whole. Our state and national representatives must value women’s vital social and economic contributions and support policy that furthers gender equality.

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Filed under Congress, Economic Justice, Equal pay, Wage Gap, working mothers, working women

Women as primary breadwinners of their families on the rise

By Claire Throckmorton, WLP Legal Intern

Women are the primary breadwinners in nearly 40% of families with children under the age of 18, according to a recently released report from the Pew Research Center. This number has almost quadrupled when compared to the 11% of mothers who were the primary breadwinners in 1960. Approximately two-thirds of these women are single mothers. The remainder is comprised of married mothers in both single and dual-income households, making the married mother the primary breadwinner in a traditional nuclear family household in15% of all households with children under 18.

The median total income for families is greatest in dual-income households where wives earn more than their husbands. The median income for these households is $79,800, compared to the median dual-income household of $78,000 when the husband earns more. On the other side of the spectrum, however, single mothers earn vastly less than either dual-income households or single father households. At a median income of $23,000, single mothers earn less than half of the median income for all households and $12,000 less than single father households.

The increasing trend of women being primary breadwinners is due to the larger number of women entering the workforce and earning higher education degrees. Sarah Jane Glynn, an analyst with the Center for American Progress, told the Washington Post that the recent recession accelerated the trend. “Part of what’s happening is that more men have been getting laid off and are having difficulty finding work…And with the way the recovery’s played out, some men who lost their jobs wound up taking others that paid less,” she noted.

The Pew report reveals that Americans’ attitudes towards the rise of women in the workplace are generally conflicted. While 80% of Americans do not believe that women should return to their traditional 1950s-esque gender roles, 74% believe it is harder to raise children when the mother works. Another 50% believe working mothers make it harder for a marriage to succeed. Report author Kim Parker believes this disparity between ideology and reality is due to Americans’ deeply ingrained beliefs about gender roles. But are these ideologies accurate?

Stephanie Coontz, co-chair of the Council on Contemporary Families, states that within the middle-class, dual-earner households have the highest rating of marital quality in the United States. Furthermore, researchers have been unable to find any substantial negative effects on young children when the mother is employed. Research in Britain and Norway has found no negative impact on adolescents. Is this related to the longer paid maternity leave and comprehensive childcare systems in these countries? The United States ranks last in support for working families among developed nations.

Women are now a staple in the workforce and will remain so. Thus, the question is no longer whether mothers should be working, but when the U.S. is going to start implementing strong social policies that will allow working parents the flexibility to raise their children and support their families.

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Filed under Employment, Equal pay, Gender Discrimination, working mothers, working women

Women have the power – why aren’t more of them using it?

Co-chairs of WomenVote PA, Carol Tracy, Executive Director of the Women’s Law Project, and Kate Michelman, President Emeritus of NARAL Pro-Choice America

AT A RECENT meeting a colleague of ours presented us with a challenge and posed the following questions:  Imagine if every woman of voting age participated in this upcoming presidential election? How would that determine the outcome of the election and the legislation and policy coming out of Washington?  What would happen – would anything really change?

The implications of such a reality are staggering.

For one, you would never hear any politician utter the phrase “legitimate rape” nor would a “transvaginal ultrasound” be prescribed by anyone other than a woman’s doctor; equal pay for equal work would be obvious; our reproductive rights would be championed by politicians, not jeopardized; support for efforts to end violence against women would be expanded; Social Security and Medicare would be stabilized and strengthened, not privatized and minimized.

Sadly, the question is hypothetical and the reality is quite the opposite – but we believe it doesn’t have to be. And we believe we can start by increasing the political participation of women here in Pennsylvania. In 2004, the Women’s Law Project, based in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, began an initiative called WomenVote PA. The goal was and is straightforward: Increase the participation of women in the electoral process. We are focused on making WomenVote PA a resource for voters to learn more about legislative and policy initiatives and, equally important, a community both in the real world and the digital world, a place that uses education, collaboration and information-sharing to mobilize women voters.

The focus on the November election all but guarantees more Americans will vote this November than in any election since 2008 (assuming voter-ID requirements don’t deprive them of their right to vote). In 2008, 6 million Pennsylvanians voted in the presidential race and yet just two years later, 4 million voted in the U.S. Senate race – a staggering 2 million Pennsylvanians who voted in 2008 failed to do so in 2010. That is likely over 1 million women not voting in off-year elections – and each of these off-year elections determine who sits in the Pennsylvania General Assembly as well as the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Increasing that off-year participation number even slightly has real policy implications and real-world effects on women.

A reason behind WomenVote PA’s re-emergence has been what we will generously describe as politicians simply “not getting it.” Whether it is using the phrase “legitimate rape,” attempting to define rape only as “forcible rape,” blocking legislation in support of equal pay for equal work, rolling back our reproductive rights or limiting protections for victims of domestic and sexual violence, WomenVote PA is active in educating our network on the federal, state and local legislation that affects their lives. We believe in assisting our elected officials and policy makers in “getting it.”

And we have the data to back it up. WomenVote PA is an initiative of the Women’s Law Project, which has just published a remarkable study titled Through the Lens of Equality: Eliminating Sex Bias to Improve the Health of Pennsylvania’s Women, which will inform our education and outreach efforts. The study provides important research and data about how ongoing bias against women – in the home, in the workplace, in the classroom, and in the community – negatively impacts women’s health. We see it as a necessity that women’s voices are informed and are heard on issues that are essential to their health and well-being and that of their families.

The question “What if all women voted?” really does set the mind reeling – but in Pennsylvania WomenVote PA will focus our efforts on seeing what happens when more women vote. We believe much will.

This opinion piece appeared in many newspapers throughout Pennsylvania.  Please share this with your friends and remember to vote!

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Filed under 2012 Election, Abortion, Equal pay, Rape, Reproductive Rights, Sexual Assault, Women's health, WomenVote PA

Pay Equity Bill Voted Down in Senate

Nikki Ditto, WLP Summer Intern and Elizabeth Wingfield, Former WLP Intern

On Tuesday June 5th, the Senate voted down the Paycheck Fairness Act in a largely party-line vote. The bill would have helped to strengthen already existing legislation on gender discrimination in the workplace, but proponents were unable to win the necessary 60 votes in order to pass it.

The Act would have required that employers prove that pay differences are based on qualifications and not on gender. U.S Senator from Pennsylvania, Bob Casey, explained in an article on the Huffington Post that the Paycheck Fairness Act would also help to reduce gender discrimination by:

  • Prohibiting employers from punishing employees for sharing salary information with co-workers.
  • Making discrimination costly to employers by making those who bring gender discrimination cases eligible for compensatory and punitive damages, as is the case with race and ethnicity discrimination cases.
  • Developing new training programs for women and girls on how to negotiate compensation packages and recognizing employers who have eliminated pay disparities.

While the rate of women in the work force has increased, their salaries as compared to their male counterparts have not. As we have blogged about before,  “2010 census data shows women still make only 77 cents to every dollar a man makes. For women of color this discrepancy is even larger. African American women earned only 67.7 cents and Latinas earned 58.7 cents to the male dollar.”  This is all in spite of the fact that women, on average, are more educated than men, and are increasingly acting as dual-earners or sole providers for their families. Pay discrimination for women and minorities is a major problem that has important consequences for families and the economy. 

The Paycheck Fairness act was meant to improve upon previous legislation, like the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act that was passed in 2009. Backers of the bill (largely Democrats) said the Act would have closed loopholes in the 1963 Equal Pay Act and that it is necessary to ensure pay equity. Those who opposed the bill (largely Republicans) argued that “they oppose pay discrimination but disagree with the Democrats’ bill.”

Though the Act only got 52 of the 60 votes needed to be passed into law, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, (D-Md), who was the chief sponsor of the bill, said that she would not be deterred and “vowed to return to the bill until it passes.”  Women, it seems, will remain a central topic for both this Congress and in the upcoming presidential campaigns.

To read the entirety of the Paycheck Fairness Act, click here.

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Filed under Congress, Equal pay, Gender Discrimination, Government

Divide and Conquer: The Wal-Mart Lawsuits Are Back

Four months after the United States Supreme Court, without ruling on the merits of the sex discrimination case under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, told Betty Dukes and her co-plaintiffs that their lawsuit against Wal-Mart could not proceed as a nationwide class action, the plaintiffs have re-organized and are trying again with smaller, regional class actions that may be permitted by the Supreme Court case. 

We blogged about the original class action lawsuit in March, when the Women’s Law Project signed an amicus brief authored by the National Women’s Law Center and the ACLU in support of the plaintiffs.  The class included 1.5 million women who work or have worked for Wal-Mart, women we believe were properly joined together in a single class action because Wal-Mart’s discriminatory decision-making processes affected all of them.  As statistical evidence shows, female Wal-Mart employees in all regions earned less, held lower-paying jobs, and received fewer promotions than men, even though on average they worked longer for the company than men. 

In Wal-Mart v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct. 2541 (2011), the Supreme Court rejected the possibility of a nationwide class action, concluding that the members of the proposed class did not satisfy the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23 (a) of having questions of law or fact in common (“commonality”) and that their claim for backpay did not meet the requirements of Rule 23(b)(2).  By departing from established understandings of “commonality,” transforming it from a “threshold criterion” that is “easily satisfied” into a much harder inquiry to satisfy (see Justice Ginsburg’s dissent), the Supreme Court bent over backwards to make it harder for employees and consumers to challenge big corporations in court.

 Now, the battle is on again as women bring class action suits region by region: a case was filed against Wal-Mart in California federal court on October 27, and another in Texas federal court the next day.  Attorney Joseph Sellers says that we can expect to see an “armada of cases” across the nation in the near future.

By splitting up the nationwide lawsuit into many regional lawsuits, the plaintiffs hope to increase their chances at success by defining smaller classes and adjusting their arguments to conform to the Supreme Court’s anti-employee ruling.  Legal action against Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer and a bastion of gender discrimination, is as necessary today as it was when the plaintiffs originally filed their nationwide class action a decade ago. We continue to support the women as they pursue civil justice region by region.

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Filed under Employment, Equal pay, Equality, Sex Discrimination, Supreme Court