UPDATE: Over at Jen Nedeau’s post on this subject at Change.org, she’s included a link to a career wage gap calculator. Mine? $657,00! That’s based solely on living in Ohio and having an above bachelor’s degree education. Oy.
Workers who are underpaid by discriminatory employers are one step closer to getting stronger legal recourse after a Friday vote by House lawmakers to amend civil rights legislation. Representatives voted 247 to 171 in favor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which would amend the Civil Rights Act, and impact other civil rights legislation, to clarify that each discriminatory paycheck creates a new opportunity for workers to file charges against employers. Lawmakers also voted 256 to 163 to approve the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would: help women receive more damages, make it easier to bring class action lawsuits, and prohibit employer retaliation against employees who share salary information, among other actions. The Senate is expected to vote on the Ledbetter bill as early as Jan. 21, and could also take up the Paycheck Fairness Act soon.
Why is the law necessary? PunditMom writes at BlogHer.com,
On average, women still only earn around 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man. And depending on the type of job you have and your level of education, pay discrimination over a lifetime could add up to between $400,000 and $700,000, or more, according to a study from the Center for American Progress. Even if you have to hire a lawyer to fight to get that back, I’d say that’s worth it, especially in these economic times.
And, as you might guess, it’s not just about a weekly salary. Getting paid less every week means getting lower contributions to pension accounts. And, yes, corporations have their eye on that ball. AT&T recently argued to the Supreme Court that, based on the Ledbetter decision, AT&T was fully within its rights to reduce the amount of pension contributions for women employees who had taken maternity leave.
And, from Momocrats:
…it’s more than forty years past when Congress outlawed wage discrimination and we’re one full generation at a minimum past the Women’s Liberation movement (depending upon which wave you mean). Women are as crucial to the workforce as men.
And yet, as I cited in the article I posted yesterday, compared to white men, women are way underpaid:
- Caucasian women earn 77 cents for every dollar paid to their white male counterparts
- African-American women earn 63 cents for every dollar paid to their white male counterparts
- Latinas earn 53 cents for every dollar paid to their white male counterparts
And why is that?
I’m just old enough to have been in the workforce long enough to recall hiring managers talking about preferring men over women because they’re “more stable, reliable, and less likely to quit once they get married or have kids.” I’m just old enough to recall being asked if I planned to get married or have kids…in a job interview. Some employers thought it made it “fair” if they asked that question of men, too, but it doesn’t. It only made it worse. Also, I don’t think the mens’ answers were weighted in a negative way as the womens’ were.
Although, as the MarketWatch item states, the bill has cleared the U.S. House, the Senate may be different, in large part because of the lobbying efforts by businesses:
“We hope to get to Lilly Ledbetter in the next week or so,” says Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. “But, as always, it depends on how much cooperation we get from Republicans.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has launched an all-out offensive against the measures, saying they would be a boon to trial lawyers and undermine the rights of employers.
“The bottom line for the business community is that we entirely agree in creating fair play in the workplace,” says chamber spokesman J.P. Fielder. “But we oppose opening up the process to litigation that will hurt small businesses.”
Trust me – when the best the opponent can do is say that a bill, if it became law, will be a “boon to trial lawyers and undermine the rights of employers,” you know they have a very weak argument against the legislation.
Please go here and send your U.S. Senator the message that he or she should vote in favor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (HR 11) and the Paycheck Fairness Act (HR 12). You can read the bills here.