Not Just a "Women's Issue"
One year ago today, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restores the law to where it was before the Supreme Court's decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. by clarifying that a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice that is unlawful under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 occurs each time compensation is paid.
In signing the bill, President Obama said, "equal pay is by no means just a women's issue—it's a family issue... And in this economy, when so many folks are already working harder for less and struggling to get by, the last thing they can afford is losing part of each month’s paychecks to simple discrimination."
One year later, the law has already been applied to court cases involving allegations of wage discrimination; however, an earnings gap still remains, as does wage discrimination, as attested to by wage discrimination complaints filed and court decisions.
Women earn only about 80 cents for every dollar that a man earns, and the gap is even greater for African American women and Latinas, who earn only 70 cents and 63 cents, respectively, for every dollar a man earns.
The wage gap has significant consequences to the economic security of women and families. Today, families are increasingly dependent on women’s wages. In married couple families, wives’ earnings account for 36 percent of family income, and approximately 2 million women have now become the sole breadwinner, supporting families with just over one-third of the usual family income.
Reducing or eliminating the earnings gap will require action on many fronts, including moving more women into non-traditional jobs, creating opportunities for occupational mobility, and addressing wage discrimination.
While women have made strides in increasing their numbers in male-dominated occupations, among the 20 leading occupations of employed women, women are the majority among all but first line managers/supervisors of retail sales workers; managers, all others; and cooks.
My vision of "Good Jobs for Everyone" includes, among other things, increasing workers' incomes and narrowing wage and income inequality and helping workers who are in low-wage jobs find a path into middle class jobs. Among the steps the Labor Department will be taking to deal with wage discrimination is a renewed emphasis on the identification and elimination of gender-based compensation discrimination at the worksites of Federal contractors. In addition, the Women’s Bureau has been engaging in and will increase its outreach to stakeholders and its education efforts to its customers to apprise them of their employment rights in furtherance of my vision.
Hilda Solis is Secretary of Labor