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On Fourth Anniversary of Lilly Ledbetter Act, Harkin Introduces the Fair Pay Act to Ensure Equal Pay for Equal Work

Women Make Only 77 Cents for Every Dollar Earned by a Man

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, on the fourth anniversary of enactment of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced the Fair Pay Act, which would build upon the important work of that legislation and help ensure equal pay for equal work.  Harkin’s legislation 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. 

“Passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was a critical step to ensuring that women who face wage discrimination can seek appropriate recourse,” said Harkin, who is Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee. “But the wage gap still prevails, which means that women earn only 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man. The wage gap means that women, their children and families, and our economy as a whole will all continue to suffer. The Fair Pay Act would help ensure equal pay for equal work.”

The average woman loses more than $400,000 over her lifetime due to unequal pay practices, and evidence shows that discrimination accounts for much of the disparity.  The Fair Pay Act would address the more systematic forms of discrimination and 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.  In fact, Senator Harkin asked Lilly Ledbetter if the Fair Pay Act would have prevented her wage discrimination case. She made clear that had she had the information about pay scales that the bill provides, she would have had the information she needed to insist on being paid a fair salary from the beginning, rather than having to resort to litigation years after the discrimination began.    

“Throughout history, women in the paid labor force have had smaller paychecks than their male counterparts. Adding insult to injury, it’s also true that jobs dominated by men pay more than jobs dominated by women, regardless of the actual educational requirements or skill levels involved. Sen. Harkin’s Fair Pay Act would ensure that employers provide equal pay for work of equal value, whether or not the jobs are the same,” said Lisa Maatz, director of public policy and government relations at the American Association of University Women. “This important bill specifically addresses equal pay for women working in female-dominated jobs that are often equivalent in skills, effort, responsibility, and working conditions to jobs dominated by men. Encouraging a society that values the work of all of its citizens is a necessary and critical step in the broader fight to close the gender pay gap.”

“Given the serious and persistent wage gap, which takes such a toll on women and their families, the Fair Pay Act represents an important step forward,” said National Women’s Law Center Co-President Marcia D. Greenberger. “It addresses a problem that contributes to the wage gap—that lower pay has been applied over the years to so-called “women’s work.”  On this anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, we commend Senator Harkin for moving forward with an effective measure to secure equal pay for women.”

“America’s women are losing thousands of dollars in critical income every year due to wage discrimination, and it is hurting them, their families and our economy,” said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women & Families. “On the four-year anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was critical to combating the discriminatory practices that contribute to the wage gap, we need Congress to commit to taking the next step. Senator Harkin’s Fair Pay Act would help to ensure equal pay for those who hold jobs that require comparable abilities, knowledge and skills. It is a common sense proposal – and members of Congress should pass it right away.”

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.