U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Dean of the Senate women, today spoke on the Senate floor along with Senate Democrats to urge the Senate to take up the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation she introduced which would help close the wage gap between women and men working equivalent jobs, costing women and their families $434,000 over their careers. Today, women make on average just 77 cents for every dollar made by a man for equal work.
"The very first bill that [Lyndon Johnson] introduced was to guarantee equal pay for equal work for women. He did that as the first bill because he thought it would be the easiest to pass. Well, 50 years later we are still being redlined, sidelined and pink slipped because we fight for equal pay for equal work," said Senator Mikulski, Dean of the Senate women. "This bill is about our families and our economy. It is about bread-and-butter decisions. We want to change the law books so we can put more money in the family checkbook and more money into our economy. I want to make sure that the dream of 50 years ago that was started by Lyndon Johnson is rectified in the passage of this legislation."
President Obama’s first bill, signed into law on January 29, 2009, was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which overturned the 180-day statute of limitations for women to contest pay discrimination. It was an important down-payment in ending the pay gap and keeping the courthouse doors open. In his second inaugural address on January 21, 2013, President Obama called for equal pay for equal work once and for all. The Paycheck Fairness Act will close the loopholes that allow pay discrimination to continue in the first place and, with Ledbetter, provide employees the rights they need to challenge and eliminate pay discrimination in the workplace.
The Paycheck Fairness Act builds upon the landmark Equal Pay Act signed into law in 1963 by closing loopholes that have kept it from achieving its goal of equal pay. The bill would require employers to show pay disparity is truly related to job-performance – not gender. It prohibits employer retaliation for sharing salary information with coworkers. Under current law employers can sue and punish employees for sharing such information. In addition, it strengthens remedies for pay discrimination by increasing compensation women can seek, allowing them to not only seek back pay, but also punitive damages for pay discrimination.
Finally the bill empowers women in the workplace through a grant program to strengthen salary negotiation and other workplace skills and requires the Department of Labor to enhance outreach and training efforts to eliminate pay disparities.
Senator Mikulski was joined by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) speaking out in support of the Paycheck Fairness Act.