Kirsten Gillibrand United States Senator for New York

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On Equal Pay Day, Gillibrand Joins Senate Colleagues In Introducing Bill To Close Pay Gap For Women

Paycheck Fairness Act Strengthens Federal Pay Equity Laws

April 12, 2011

Washington, D.C. – In recognition of Equal Pay Day today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand joined with more than 20 of her Senate colleagues in introducing the Paycheck Fairness Act to strengthen federal pay equity laws and ensure equal pay for equal work. Equal Pay Day represents how much longer women must work, on average, to earn as much as what men earned the previous year.

“As we mark yet another Equal Pay Day, it is alarming that in the 21st century, millions of women who make up half the workforce are earning  78 cents for every dollar earned by men. We must close this chronic gap that shortchanges America’s women.  Ensuring that men and women who do equal work receive equal pay is more than just a matter of principle. It is clear that a rebuilt middle class rests squarely on women helping to lead the way to economic recovery,” Senator Gillibrand said.

The Paycheck Fairness Act builds on the promise of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and helps close the pay gap by empowering women to negotiate for equal pay, closing loopholes courts have created in the law, creating strong incentives for employers to obey the laws and strengthening federal outreach and enforcement efforts.

Specifically, the legislation:

  • Clarifies the ‘any factor other than sex’ defense so an employer trying to justify paying a man more than a woman for the same job must show the disparity is not sex-based; is job related and is necessary for the business.
  • Prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who discuss or disclose salary information with their co-workers. 
  • Strengthens the remedies available to include punitive and compensatory damages. Under the EPA currently, plaintiffs can only recover back pay or, in some cases, double back pay. The bill would ensure that women can receive the same remedies for pay discrimination that are available under other laws for discrimination based on race and national origin. 
  • Requires the Department of Labor to improve outreach and training efforts to work with employers in order to eliminate pay disparities.
  • Enhances the collection of information on women’s and men’s wages in order to more fully explore the reasons for the wage gap and help employers in addressing pay disparities.
  • Creates a new grant program to help strengthen the negotiation skills of girls and women.

Senator Gillibrand was a strong supporter of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was written to remedy the 2007 Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. decision in which a divided Supreme Court held that workers must sue for pay discrimination within 180 days after the original pay-setting decision, no matter how long the unfair pay continues. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, making it possible for employees to seek a legal remedy based on each discriminatory paycheck, not just during the first 180 days of pay discrimination. It was the first bill signed into law by President Obama.

The Senate bill is sponsored by Senator Mikulski and co-sponsored by Senators Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).