Two Steps Forward, One Step Back: The Battle of the Paycheck Fairness Act

Despite studies from the Census Bureau showing that, nationally, women earn 77 cents for every dollar men make, Senate Republicans blocked crucial legislation that would help further combat the very real issue of gender inequality in the American workplace.  In a 53-44 vote, the Paycheck Fairness Act fell just 7 votes shy of passing.  This marks the third time this bill has been blocked from making it out of the Senate.

The bill contained provisions that would prevent employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information with co-workers, and also limited the factors employers could cite as reasons for paying its female employees less than its male employees.  These provisions would have provided a much needed boost to closing the income gap between male and female workers.

Republican lawmakers claimed that the bill was “redundant” in light of the protections of other statutes prohibiting discrimination.  However, this view is either willfully ignorant of the nature of American workplaces, or fails to fully grasp that limited legal protections that women have in the area of income equality.

In related news, President Obama issued two executive orders on Tuesday that apply the proposed provisions of Paycheck Fairness Act to both the federal government and federal contractors.  This comes in response to an EEOC study that we covered a few months back, detailing the obstacles still faced by female employees in the federal government.  While these executive orders are not nearly as extensive as the Paycheck Fairness Act, they still represent a giant leap forward in fair pay between genders.

Although the Paycheck Fairness Act failed to make it off the floor of the Senate, it is almost certain to return, as Majority Leader Harry Reid reserved the ability to bring the bill back up for consideration through procedural maneuvering.  We’ll keep you updated on the status of this bill, and the way it could affect your rights, as further information develops.

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