Equal Work, Equal Pay: Congress Seeks to Make Gender Pay Discrimination a Thing of the Past
Simon, Mashaun D., Black Enterprise
WOMEN ACROSS AMERICA ARE CLAIMING A SMALL victory thanks to the passage of a bill designed to end gender-based pay discrimination. H.R. 1338, the Paycheck Fairness Act, still pending Senate approval, could make it easier for women to sue employers for wage bias.
The Paycheck Fairness Act takes immediate steps to close the wage gap for women by amending and strengthening the Equal Pay Act of 1963, according to Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a cosponsor of the bill who spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives. "Although the wage gap between men and women has narrowed since the passage of the EPA, gender-based wage discrimination remains a problem for women in the U.S. workforce," Lee said in a statement.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, women still earn on average only 77% of what men earn. The situation is far worse for women of color. For every dollar men earned in 2006, African American women were paid just 64 cents; Hispanic women earned 52 cents.
"The wage disparity between men and women costs women anywhere from $400,000 to $2 million over a lifetime--keenly impacting the economic security of single women who are heads of households and those women in retirement," adds Lee.
Not even a college degree is much help, says Lisa M. Maatz, director of Public Policy and Government Relations at the American Association of University Women. Based on AAUW research, just one year after college graduation, women earn only 80% of what their male counterparts earn. As they move further up in their careers, women fall further behind, earning about 69% of what men earn 10 years after having graduated college.
Maatz says the Paycheck Fairness Act takes some basic yet meaningful steps. While it strengthens some of the loopholes of the EPA, it also puts some enforcement efforts into place. Most importantly, she says, it prohibits retaliation by employers against employees who speak out or even discuss their pay with colleagues. …