Securing Equal Pay

Today – Tuesday, April 17 – is Equal Pay Day, which marks the fact that, nearly 50 years since President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the average woman still has to work well into the calendar year to earn what the average man earned last year. According to the latest U.S. Census statistics, on average, full-time working women earned 77 cents to every dollar earned by men, and the gap is significantly more for women of color. This substantial gap is more than a mere statistic.  It has real-life consequences.  Women, who compose nearly half of the workforce, are bringing home 23 percent less than their male counterparts – which means less for families’ everyday needs, less for investments in our children’s futures, and, when added up over a lifetime of work, substantially less for retirement. 

President Obama understands how much this issue impacts our nation’s economic well-being, and that’s why, from his earliest days in office, he has been committed to closing the pay gap.  Today, in conjunction with Equal Pay Day, we are proud to announce the following additional initiatives: 

  • First, the White House released the Equal Pay Task Force Accomplishments Report:  Fighting for Fair Pay in the Workplace. The Equal Pay Task Force (“Task Force”), which the President established in 2010, brings together the best expertise of professionals at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor and the Office of Personnel Management, who work daily to combat pay discrimination in the workplace. Since the Task Force’s creation, enforcement actions have increased; the government has recovered unprecedented monetary recoveries for women seeking their fair share for performing the same work as men; and investments in outreach to both employers and employees are paying big dividends. The report details the significant progress that the Task Force has made to fight pay discrimination – including improving inter-agency coordination and collaboration to ensure that the full weight of the federal government is focused on closing the gender pay gap once and for all.  I commend the professionals who represent the member agencies on the Task Force for the extraordinary work they and their teams undertake each day to realize the President’s directive. 
  • Second, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis today announced the winners of the “Equal Pay App Challenge.”  In January of this year, the Department of Labor, in conjunction with the Equal Pay Task Force, launched this challenge – inviting software developers to use publicly available data and resources to create applications that provide greater access to pay data organized by gender, race, and ethnicity; provide interactive tools for early career coaching or online mentoring; or provide data to help inform pay negotiations.  A solution to the pay gap has been elusive, in part because access to basic information – e.g., typical salary ranges and skill level requirements for particular positions, advice on how to negotiate appropriate pay – is limited.  Because of the enthusiastic response to the “Equal Pay App Challenge” and the creative apps that were developed, anyone with a smartphone, tablet or computer can access answers to these basic, but important, questions.  This challenge represents just one more way that women can empower themselves with the tools they need to make sure they get equal pay for equal work.   
  • Finally, in our ongoing effort to educate employees and employers about their rights and responsibilities under our nation’s equal pay laws, the Department of Labor today published two brochures that will educate employees regarding their rights under the existing equal pay laws and enable employers to understand their obligations.

Today’s actions build on progress already underway by this Administration in the fight for equal pay. The very first bill that President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which extended the time period in which claimants can bring pay discrimination claims and, in the process, enabled countless victims of pay discrimination to seek redress where they previously could not.  In 2010, the President pledged to crack down on violations of equal pay laws and, that same year, established the Task Force.  And in his 2012 State of the Union address, the President unequivocally reaffirmed his commitment to securing equal pay for equal work when he said, “. . . an economy built to last is one where we encourage the talent and ingenuity of every person in this country. That means women should earn equal pay for equal work.” Under the President’s leadership, this Administration has made significant progress to bridge the gender pay gap, but our work is far from complete.  When every woman gets the pay that she deserves – equal pay for equal work – families flourish, communities thrive, and our nation prospers. It’s a matter of fair play, and we must do all that we can to make it right.

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