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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