September 01, 2014

Senate vote on Paycheck Fairness Act falls short

The Senate failed Sept. 15 to proceed to a vote on the merits of the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill to update the Equal Pay Act of 1963.

Supporters of the legislation, S. 2199, could not garner the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture to end debate and proceed to a vote on passage. The 52−40  cloture vote came just five days after the Senate had voted 73−25 to allow floor consideration of the legislation.

The bill would prohibit an employer from paying unequal wages to male and female workers who perform jobs under similar work conditions that require substantially equal skills, effort, and responsibility unless there is a legitimate reason for a pay differential. The measure also would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who inquire about or disclose their wages to other employees as part of a complaint or investigation.

In a Sept. 9 letter, ABA Governmental Affairs Office Director Thomas M. Susman urged senators to allow a Senate vote on S. 2199.

“This legislation has the overwhelming support of working men and women across the country who want this nation to live up to its expressed commitment to equal pay for equal work,” Susman wrote.

His letter also addressed misconceptions about the bill, explaining that the measure would not:

· force businesses to eliminate the existing wage gap by substantially increasing female employees’ salaries;

· make employers liable for every single wage differential;

· set rules for how employers must determine pay;

· encourage an uptick in lawsuits; or

· eviscerate the “factor other than sex” defense.

ABA policy adopted in 2010 urges Congress to pass legislation to “provide more effective remedies, procedures and protections to those subjected to pay discrimination, including discrimination on the basis of gender, and would help overcome the barriers to the elimination of such pay discrimination that continue to exist.”

According to The Gender Wage Gap: 2013, a new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the gender wage gap for full-time/year-round workers is 21.7 percent,  and women’s median annual earnings in 2013 were $39,157 compared with $50,033 for men with no significant improvement from 2012. The report concluded that if the rate of change stays the same, it will take until 2058 for the wage gap to close.

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