Paycheck Fairness Act Fails to Pass
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Paycheck Fairness Act Fails to Pass

By Kimberly Mirando


wage gap

(LEGAFI) -- The Paycheck Fairness Act -- a bill aimed at eliminating wage discrimination against women -- failed to pass the Senate last week by only two votes. If passed, the bill would have strengthened the Equal Pay Act in several ways by providing more effective protections and remedies to victims of wage-based sex discrimination.


Supporters of the Paycheck Fairness Act said stronger laws are needed to erase the persistent earnings gap between men and women, while critics said the bill could hurt businesses and workers. Some of the protections the Paycheck Fairness Act sought were:


-- Requiring employers to prove that wage differences between and male and female employees doing the same work are the result of training, education, experience or other job-related factors.


-- Allowing the class for class action lawsuits in wage-discrimination cases under the Equal Pay Act to be created by an opt-out policy. (The current policy for employees bringing an action under the Equal Pay Act is that they have to opt in.)


-- Providing uncapped punitive and compensatory damages against employers.


--Prohibiting employers from retaliating against employees who discuss their wages with another employee.


-- Providing victims of gender-based wage discrimination the same legal remedies currently available to those experiencing pay discrimination on the basis of race or national origin.


A 2009 report by the U.S. Labor Department found that full-time working women earned an average weekly salary of $657 compared with $819 for men -- nearly 20% less than men.


“The wage gap is really hurting families’ economic security and having equal pay means more money in people’s pockets to afford things,” said Portia Wu, vice president of National Partnership for Women & Families.


Opponents of the bill, however, argued that the wage gap is a myth perpetuated by bad research, and that affirmative action laws are not necessary in a society that is already reasonably fair. They also argued that the Paycheck Fairness Act would have crippled businesses with increased litigation and associated legal costs.


“[The Paycheck Fairness Act] would open companies to potentially crippling employment litigation without adding significant benefit to workers, since current law already addresses the discrimination issue,” said Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget.


Wage discrimination based on worker’s sex is illegal, but that doesn’t always keep companies from discriminating against women by paying them less than men.  Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are just some of the major companies making news lately for alleged sex-based wage discrimination. Both companies are currently facing class action lawsuits from female employees.



Updated November 23rd, 2010

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