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Democrats Reintroduce Paycheck Fairness Act

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Democratic lawmakers reintroduced the Paycheck Fairness Act yesterday calling for Congress to pass the bill and provide women with new tools to combat the gender wage gap.

The act is intended to strengthen equal pay protections for women, but opponents from the business community fear the legislation will make it nearly impossible for employers to defend themselves against wage discrimination allegations that are based off legitimate compensation factors.

Sponsored by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and U.S. Rep. Rosa Delauro (D-Conn.), the proposed bill would amend the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Fair Labor Standards Act.

Among its proposals, it would:

  • Prohibit employers from asking or relying on salary history during the interview process;
  • Protect employees against retaliation for inquiring about their employers’ wage practices or disclosing their own wages;
  • Change the defenses currently afforded to employers under the Equal Pay Act and require employers to prove that wage differentials are based on factors other than sex, thus shifting the burden of proof in these claims to the employer;
  • Facilitate easier access for plaintiffs to participate in class-action lawsuits that challenge systemic pay discrimination;
  • Broaden the definition of establishment to allow comparisons between employees within defined geographical areas;
  • Direct the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to create a system to collect wage data from private companies;
  • Instruct the Department of Labor to conduct studies and review available research and data to provide information on how to identify, correct and eliminate illegal wage disparities.

The legislation is unlikely to gain support in the Republican-controlled Senate. While some of the provisions, such as prohibiting the use of salary history, could garner Republican support, other provisions, like directing the EEOC to collect wage data from private companies, are likely dead on arrival.

About the Authors

Brett Christie is a staff writer at WorldatWork.