Closing The Gap

Nancy Pelosi and Democratic lawmakers unveil the Paycheck Fairness Act in an effort to close the gender wage gap

U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) speaks during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol January 30, 2019 in Washington, DC. House Democrats held a news conference to introduce the 'Paycheck Fairness Act.'
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

On Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Democratic lawmakers reintroduced the Paycheck Fairness Act, a measure intended to strengthen equal pay protections for women.

The proposed bill, which Democrats have tried to pass for 20 years, would add protections to the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Fair Labor Standards Act in an attempt to close the gender wage gap. It would ban salary secrecy, increase penalties for employers who retaliate against workers who share wage information and allow workers to sue for damages of pay discrimination. The bill would also provide more training for employers on collecting pay gap information and eliminating pay disparities.

"When women succeed, America succeeds," said Pelosi at the introduction of the conference. She said she hopes President Trump will sign the bill by April 2, which is Equal Pay Day.

The bill's reintroduction marks the 10th anniversary of President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which overturned a Supreme Court decision that limited the time period in which employees could file an equal pay lawsuit related to pay discrimination.

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Ledbetter, the plaintiff in that landmark discrimination case, attended today's event alongside House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Washington Sen. Patty Murray, and other Democratic Reps, including Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut, Bobby Scott of Virginia, Jackie Speier of California and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

"The consequences of pay discrimination, they last your entire life," said Ledbetter. "We cannot subject another generation of women, our daughters, our granddaughters, to this injustice."

The measure is unlikely to resonate in the Republican-controlled Senate. Since 2012, House Republicans have voted at least four times to block the act from consideration. The GOP has argued the bill would make it too easy for workers to sue firms over pay inequality allegations and lead to unnecessary lawsuits.

Republicans have also called the bill unnecessary, since gender discrimination is already illegal, and have said that bill's regulations would only discourage companies from hiring women.

Women working full-time earned 80 percent of what men earned in 2018, according to commonly-cited U.S. Census Bureau data. "I cannot tell you how difficult it has been to break through on something so simple — that men and women in the same job deserve the same pay," DeLauro said.

Ocasio-Cortez said the bill would force employers to make salaries transparent and stop them from asking about pay history.

"It is time that we pay people what they are worth and not how little they are desperate enough to accept," she said. "And that has nothing to do with their history, it has everything to do with what they are worth today."

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