Wage Discrimination Hurts Women & Their Families

March 18, 2019

by M&S Staff

wage discrimationEqual pay for equal work? While these words served as equal parts political promise and rallying cry for supporters of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, nearly six decades later, full-time women in the workplace continue to take home 20% less pay than men.[1]

The 1963 Equal Pay Act made discriminatory gender-based compensation unlawful with the goal of abolishing rampant wage disparities. But this legislation does not go far enough because of its many limitations and loopholes. That’s where the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA) comes in.

The PFA (which is currently in its eleventh iteration since 1997) builds on the Equal Pay Act by requiring employers to implement specific, quantifiable actions to reverse gendered income inequity.  First, the proposed legislation will require employers to report salaries, promotions, and employee dismissals, broken down by both race and gender, to the EEOC; this level of oversight will allow the federal government to discern patterns of discrimination in individual workplaces.

Next, the PFA prohibits employers from either barring employees from discussing salaries or retaliating against those who do. Pay secrecy works in favor of employers who pay workers inequitably by keeping employees in the dark about the earnings of those who perform similar work. Pay confidentiality policies perpetuate pay inequity by making it more difficult for employees to gauge appropriate compensation goals and ensure that they are not being underpaid.

Finally, the new bill bans potential employers from asking applicants about their salary history. Being asked about salary history can be uncomfortable for any applicant, but for women and people of color, this question can force them to accept a lower salary than men receive and trap them into a cycle of under-compensation., Requiring the disclosure of one’s salary history creates a dynamic that can swiftly destroy any potential for fair pay, and is a sign that a company is not an equal opportunity employer.

To learn more about PFA, read the testimony that Working IDEAL Strategic Partner Jenny Yang gave here.

In the era of #MeToo, more attention is now focused on the (mis)treatment of women in the workforce. Women are increasingly speaking out against workplace injustices, and more people are listening. Mehri & Skalet stands against pay discrimination and has represented many women who have experienced pay discrimination at work.  If you want to discuss your concerns about pay discrimination, click here to contact us.

[1] https://www.aclu.org/other/equal-pay-equal-work-pass-paycheck-fairness-act