Annual earnings data released last Thursday by the Census Bureau confirm a troubling discrepancy facing women workers and their families. Full-time women employees still make, on average, only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men — a lingering gender gap that depresses women’s pay by thousands of dollars. This latest confirmation of disparate compensation poses an immediate challenge for the Senate, where important legislation aimed at combating gender-based wage discrimination now hangs in the balance.
The measure, the Paycheck Fairness Act, would accomplish a much-needed updating and strengthening of the nation’s 47-year-old Equal Pay Act.
Key provisions would enhance the remedies available for victims of gender-based discrimination, protect employees from retaliation for sharing salary information with co-workers, and require employers to show that wage differences are job-related, not sex-based, and driven by business necessity.
The clock is ticking. The bill, which has strong backing from the Obama White House, has already passed the House by a wide margin. With scant time remaining in the Congressional session, the Senate must act quickly to pass the bill or it will die.
The fact that the Senate bill has no Republican co-sponsors speaks volumes about the prevailing partisan atmosphere on Capitol Hill.
But four G.O.P. senators — Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe of Maine, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — supported another measure targeting wage discrimination just last year. By standing up again for America’s women when the Paycheck Fairness Act finally reaches the Senate floor, they would advance the cause significantly.