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Jun-09-2013 20:54printcomments

GOP Senators Kill Paycheck Fairness Act

The PFA, introduced in both the House (H.R. 377) and the Senate (S. 84) would have updated and strengthened the EPA in important ways.

Gender pay discrepency
Courtesy: classwarfareexists.com

(SAN FRANCISCO) - The entire cast of Republican Senators voted June 4 to kill the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA), equal pay legislation intended to close loopholes and strengthen the Equal Pay Act (EPA), first signed into law by President Kennedy over 50 years ago.

The vote was 52 to 47 with all Republican Senators voting against the legislation. Passage of the PFA would have been a much needed 50th anniversary present to American women, indeed to all Americans.

The EPA provides, among other things, that “No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility.”

Upon signing the EPA, President Kennedy proclaimed the bill “affirms our determination that when women enter the labor force they will find equality in their pay envelope.” When President Kennedy signed the EPA, women who worked full-time, year-round, made 59 cents on average for every dollar earned by men. Today, women who work full-time, year-round, make 77 cents on average for every dollar earned by men.

Since its enactment, the Equal Pay Act has never been updated or strengthened.

The PFA, introduced in both the House (H.R. 377) and the Senate (S. 84) would have updated and strengthened the EPA in important ways.

The PFA changes to the EPA can be found in the January 2013, How the Paycheck Fairness Act Will Strengthen the Equal Pay Act fact sheet by the National Women’s Law Center.

Here is a summary of the PFA from the fact sheet.


    First, it would have improved EPA remedies by allowing prevailing plaintiffs to recover compensatory and punitive damages. Now the EPA provides only for liquidated damages and back pay awards, which tend to be insubstantial. The change would put gender-based wage discrimination on an equal footing with discrimination based on race or ethnicity, for which full compensatory and punitive damages are already available.

    Second, the PFA would have allowed an EPA lawsuit to proceed as a class action lawsuit in conformity with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). Now, it is very difficult to bring EPA suits as class action lawsuits because the EPA was adopted prior to the current federal class action rule and requires plaintiffs to opt in to a suit. Under the FRCP, class members are automatically considered part of the class until they choose to opt out of the class.

    Third, the PFA would generally prohibit employers from punishing employees for sharing salary information with their coworkers. This change would have greatly enhanced employees’ ability to learn about wage disparities and to evaluate whether they are experiencing wage discrimination.

    Fourth, under the EPA, when an employer is found to be paying female employees less than male employees for equal work, the employer may assert an affirmative defense that the pay differential is based on a “factor other than sex.” The PFA would have tightened this affirmative defense so that it can excuse a pay differential for men and women only where the employer can show that the differential is truly caused by something other than sex and is related to job performance and consistent with business necessity.


    Fifth, under the EPA, in order to determine that there is wage discrimination, a wage comparison must be made between employees working at the same “establishment.” Some courts have interpreted this to mean that wages paid in different facilities or offices of the same employer cannot be compared even if the employer is paying workers different salaries for the same work. The PFA clarifies that comparisons may be made between employees in offices in the same county or similar political subdivision as well as between broader groups of offices in some commonsense circumstances.

    Sixth, the PFA would have required the EEOC to survey pay data already available and issue regulations within 18 months that require employers to submit any needed pay data identified by the race, sex, and national origin of employees. These data would enhance the EEOC’s ability to detect violations of law and improve its enforcement of the laws against pay discrimination.

Finally, the PFA would have reinstated the collection of gender-based data in the Current Employment Statistics survey. It sets standards for conducting systematic wage discrimination analyses by the agency that oversees the nondiscrimination and affirmative action obligations of federal contractors. The PFA also would have directed implementation of the Equal Opportunity Survey, a vital tool for detecting wage and other types of discrimination.

In the last forty years, the number of full-time working women in the U.S. increased from about 14 million to more than 43 million. Equal pay is not simply a women’s issue. Families of these working women increasingly rely on their wages to make ends meet. When women bring home less money each day, it means they have less for the everyday needs of their families.

Hopefully, women will remember this vote at the next election.

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Salem-News.com writer Ralph E. Stone was born in Massachusetts. He is a graduate of both Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School. We are very fortunate to have this writer's talents in this troubling world; Ralph has an eye for detail that others miss. As is the case with many Salem-News.com writers, Ralph is an American Veteran who served in war. Ralph served his nation after college as a U.S. Army officer during the Vietnam war. After Vietnam, he went on to have a career with the Federal Trade Commission as an Attorney specializing in Consumer and Antitrust Law. Over the years, Ralph has traveled extensively with his wife Judi, taking in data from all over the world, which today adds to his collective knowledge about extremely important subjects like the economy and taxation. You can send Ralph an email at this address stonere@earthlink.net

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Jason June 10, 2013 10:15 am (Pacific time)

Matt my brother recently hired his daughter-in-law for a management position in his medium-sized company. Though she has been raising her children for many years she has not been working at an outside job for over ten years. Another employee had figured they would get the job, but as my brother stated "Family trumps!" You think that's fair Matt? Nepotism is how things generally go in small and medium-sized business. Cronyism is the hallmark also, especially in some government hiring and promotions. You think the government has the right to intervene and tell a private business how to hire and pay their employees? I guess you get down to the basics and define why do we have jobs? Why do we have corporations? Look at what has happened to public education over the last 40 years. Unions have been the cause of the decline as you see ongoing increases in taxes going to salary and pensions (over 90%) rather than providing infrastructure and educational books/equipment for the students. Fair and equal pay has many dynamics attached, as does competence. If you don't like it, well move on. Is it fair for a person who spent time in the military to lose out on seniority and benefits to someone who is not a citizen? Should an unemployed citizen have to compete for a job with someone who is here illegally? Why should Oprah have all that money, while someone who is more talented be unemployed? More government intervention is a recipe for failure as states like California expose. Fair pay for equal work sounds great on the surface, but there are many metrics to assess, and yes, let the market handle it. By the way I know many women who make more than men for doing the same job...just the same to not look at the underlying reasons is a matter for private enterprise to handle. Government jobs have a system that gives us considerable corruption, incompetence for all genders. Most government jobs could easily go to the private sector.


Matt Johnson - Malibu June 10, 2013 1:39 am (Pacific time)

The commenter below left off the rest of their name... it is "and mirrors". Sad sick twisted people have no idea what fairness is but oh how I'd like to stick this smoker in another person's shoes for just one day, their prejudice, sad and sick attitude would go out the window like a musty old smell. But people are too stupid to figure it out, often folks like this will end up having a really shitty life and never comprehend the karmic aspects of their own misery, sad for those who they live around or near.

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