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Rights Groups Urge Paycheck Fairness Act Passing

WASHINGTON - Civil rights organizations are urging the Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would help women workers who suffer from wage discrimination.

The bill would update and strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), which made it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who perform substantially the same work.  The House of Representatives passed the Paycheck Fairness Act in January 2009, but the Senate has not yet voted on the legislation.

In a September 13 letter of support to the Senate, The Leadership Conference says that while the EPA has been effective at helping to narrow the gap in pay between women and men who perform the same work, there are areas where the EPA has fallen short and allowed unfair and unequal pay practices to persist. To address these disparities, The Paycheck Fairness Act would:

  • Ensure that women can obtain the same remedies for sex-based pay discrimination as those available to victims of race-based and national origin discrimination;
  • Eliminate unfair defenses to pay discrimination currently available to employers;
  • Prohibit employer  retaliation against employees who disclose or discuss their salaries;
  • Improve wage data collection;
  • Make clear that individuals may compare themselves to similarly situated employees to determine whether wage discrimination exists, even if those employees do not work in the same physical location.

"In today's economic climate, working families are struggling to make ends meet. Women in particular are often forced to raise their families on incomes lower than male colleagues performing the same job," said Wade Henderson, president & CEO, and Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president, in the letter. "The Paycheck Fairness Act would help ensure that women workers are not shortchanged, thus promoting stable family incomes and preventing the kinds of home foreclosures and credit defaults that precipitated the recent recession."

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women who work full-time still earn, on average, only 77 cents for every dollar men earn. In 2008, women were 35 percent more likely to live in poverty than men. The statistics are even worse for women of color.



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