US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

Harkin Statement on the 50th Anniversary of the Enactment of the Equal Pay Act

Harkin is Author of the “Fair Pay Act” and Cosponsor of the “Paycheck Fairness Act”

Monday, June 10, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C.—U.S. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, released the following statement today on the 50th anniversary of the enactment of the Equal Pay Act.

“Five decades after President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, we are reminded that much work remains to realize the basic principle that men and women deserve equal pay for equal work. Today, an American woman makes only 77 cents for every dollar that a man makes, and the average woman loses more than $400,000 over her lifetime due to unequal pay practices.  The fact is, women are working harder than ever, but they are not being fairly compensated for their contributions to our economy. This is wrong, it is unjust, and it undermines the economic security of our families.

“American women have waited far too long for fair pay, which is why bills like the Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act are so critical to achieving this goal.  Fifty years after President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, let us recommit ourselves to eliminating discrimination in the workplace and making equal pay for equal work a reality.  America’s women—and the families that rely on them—deserve fairness on the job.”

Earlier this year, Harkin introduced the Fair Pay Act, which would require employers to provide equal pay for jobs that are comparable in skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions, and would give workers the information they need to determine when jobs are undervalued. The Fair Pay Act would address the historic pattern of undervaluing and underpaying so-called “women’s” work.  Millions of women have jobs—for example, social workers, teachers, child care workers and nurses—that are equivalent in skills, effort, responsibility and working conditions to jobs that are usually held by men.  However, the jobs that are predominantly held by women pay significantly less.

Harkin’s legislation would require employers to disclose pay scales and rates for all job categories at a given company.  This would give employees the information they need to identify discriminatory pay practices.  Importantly, it does not require specific information on individual employees.  The bill would give all employees the tools they need to have informed pay discussions with their employers. 

A longtime advocate for equal pay for women, Harkin is also an original cosponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which passed the House in the 111th Congress but was filibustered in the Senate. It would strengthen penalties and close loopholes in the enforcement of current equal pay laws.

The Fair Pay Act would:

  • Amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to prohibit discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, race or national origin;
  • Require employers to provide equal pay for jobs that are comparable in skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions;
  • Prohibit companies from reducing other employees’ wages to achieve pay equity;
  • Require public disclosure of employer job categories and pay scales, without requiring specific information on individual employees; and
  • Allow payment of different wages under a seniority system, merit system, or system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production.

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