Senate hearing room, Senators

No Kidding: Senate Committee Hearing on Paycheck Fairness

On Tuesday, April Fools Day, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee held a hearing – chaired by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) – on the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 84). But pay discrimination is no laughing matter!

The Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA) would ameliorate the unbelievable reality that women in this country continue to make 77 cents on every dollar their male counterpart makes—and that figure hasn’t budged in over a decade! PFA would build on laws that are already on the books: the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Although these laws are important and significant improvements, not only just for women, pay discrimination continues, and we need legislation that responds to the reality that millions of women face around the country.

Why do we need the Paycheck Fairness Act? Here are a couple reasons why passing PFA would help close the pay gap:

Evidence: Under current law, you can bring your employer to court for pay discrimination. However, it is very hard to collect evidence of wage discrimination because many women fear or know that their employer will retaliate—very few people can afford losing their jobs. The Congressional Research Service summarizes this section of the bill, saying “[S. 84] Prohibits retaliation for inquiring about, discussing, or disclosing the wages of the employee or another employee in response to a complaint or charge, or in furtherance of a sex discrimination investigation, proceeding, hearing, or action, or an investigation conducted by the employer.”

Breadwinners: 40% of the primary breadwinners in this country are women. American women who work full-time, year-round, are paid 77 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make. This wage gap translates to a staggering $10,874 less per year in median earnings. Women and their families are not only shortchanged, but will struggle to make ends meet where otherwise they might not.

Security: Wage discrimination compounds over time. If a woman is a victim of gender-based pay discrimination at one job, when she moves onto the next one, she is likely to stay in that cycle. For example, if an employer hires a man and a woman at the same time, for two very similar jobs, with very similar qualifications, but the man earned more at his previous job, the woman is likely to be hired at a lower salary. Over time, as this continues to happen, it not only affects a woman’s ability to build up her finances and support herself and her family, but she loses savings for retirement. And women live longer than men!

Equality: In a society such as ours that places such a high value on work and the American Dream of hard work leading you down a straight path to success, paying women less than their male counterparts signals that their work is worth less, that they are worth less. Passing the Paycheck Fairness Act is a vital step in correcting that view and making sure women in all fifty states know that they are valued, that they have something equal to contribute, and that our society recognizes that.

It was heartening to be at the Senate HELP Committee Hearing yesterdat. There are so many champions of the Paycheck Fairness Act (with 55 cosponsors!), and we hope that support will translate into a positive outcome in an anticipated vote. Urge your Senators to vote in favor of S. 84, the Paycheck Fairness Act today!

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Sarah Greenberg

About Sarah Greenberg

Sarah Greenberg is the Senior Legislative Assistant at the RAC. She graduated in 2013 from Cornell University, and is originally from New York, NY. Sarah was an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant in 2013-2014.

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