Although well intentioned, presidential Equal Pay Day proclamations have not and will not end the long-standing workplace earnings gap between men and women. Instead, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis says she hopes actual legislation, like the Paycheck Fairness Act, will be more effective.
"Nearly a half century after the Equal Pay Act was enacted to ensure equal pay for equal work, this form of discrimination continues to impinge upon women's rights in the workplace," said Sec. Solis in a press release. "As women hold nearly half of this nation's jobs, their earnings have become even more central to families' economic well-being."
The Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 12), passed by the House on Jan. 9, 2009, would update and strengthen the Equal Pay Act by closing loopholes allowing unequal pay for equal work, providing for stronger federal enforcement efforts and offering incentives to employers who adopt and apply equal pay policies.
For example, the Paycheck Fairness Act would strengthen the Equal Pay Act's prohibition of pay rate differentials based on any other factor other than sex. The new law would limit legitimate reasons for different pay rates to bona fide factors, such as education, training, or experience.
"The first piece of legislation that President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009," said Solis. "In signing the bill, he said, 'Equal pay is by no means just a women's issue -- it's a family issue... And in this economy, when so many folks are already working harder for less and struggling to get by, the last thing they can afford is losing part of each month's paychecks to simple discrimination.'"
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act expanded and strengthened federal rules allowing employees to file claims of pay discrimination based on gender, race, national origin, religion, age or disability.
"This Equal Pay Day, I want to recognize that, although progress is being made, equal pay is still far from a reality for millions of working women and their families," said Solis. "We must continue to pursue pay equity with passion and determination."