On June 5th, the Paycheck Fairness Act (S.3220) to prevent wage discrimination by gender failed on a procedural vote (52-47) to get the 60 votes needed to move forward in the Senate. It was a party line vote, with only Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) voting “no” in order to have the procedural ability to bring the bill up again. During the last Congress, the previous version of this bill passed the House with bipartisan support but failed to garner support from Senate Republicans.
The Paycheck Fairness Act amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 and updates the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by enabling data collection aimed at better enforcement of pay discrimination laws. It also creates a grant for a salary-negotiation training program for women, awards employers who make a substantial effort to close the wage gap and creates larger penalties for employers who discriminate. Building on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which took steps to ensure that women had an appropriate window of time for legal retaliation against pay discrimination, this bill fosters more transparency of salaries and protects employees who sue for pay equity.
In 2011, nearly half of all American workers were female. Women make 77 cents for every dollar men earn for performing the same work. For African American and Latino women, this disparity is even greater. African American women are paid 64 cents, and Latinos women only 56 cents, for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. The gender wage gap puts female workers at a disadvantage in their careers and contributes to the disproportionate poverty among single-mother families. Partisan politics will likely inhibit the bill from moving forward this year.