Despite our country's long history of progress toward civil rights and equality, there is still evidence that discrimination and wage disparity exists in the workplace. Although the wage gap between men and women has narrowed since the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, according to the US Census Bureau in 2008, women still make only 77 -80 cents for every dollar earned by a man. This wage disparity will cost women anywhere from $400,000 to $2 million in lost wages over a lifetime.
That is why I have consistently supported legislation that attempts to close this wage gap, including the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, H.R. 11. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, signed into law by President Obama in January 2009, puts gender-based discrimination sanctions on equal footing with other forms of wage discrimination- such as race, disability, or age -- by allowing women to sue employers for compensatory and punitive damages. It also reverses a 2007 Supreme Court decision that put time restraints on when individuals can sue for discrimination.
In addition, the Paycheck Fairness Act, H.R. 12, passed by the House in January 2009 and currently being considered in the Senate, will close loopholes that have allowed employers to continue paying female employees less than men and will require that employers prove that pay disparities are not gender based.
If you believe you have been the victim of discrimination, you can take action at either the state or federal level.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
The Recovery Act included a number of provisions which may be of particular interest to women, including:
* $148,408 in funding for Southwestern Wisconsin Community Action Program in Dodgeville for Head Start and Early Head Start programs to increase the compensation and benefits of staff through cost of living adjustments to retain staff and improve the overall quality of the program.
* $203,800 in funding for Head Start Child and Family Development Centers, Inc. in La Crosse to also increase the compensation and benefits of staff through a cost of living adjustment to improve the overall quality of the program.
* $25,003 in funding for St. Croix County to create a Victim Services Assistant Position for their Victim/Witness Program.
* $56,763 in fuding for the Ho-Chunk Nation in Black River Falls for Head Start programs to provide professional development to teaching staff to improve staff qualifications.
* $223,184 in funding for Western Dairyland Economic Opportunity Council, Inc. in Independence for Head Start to pay for travel expenses and registration fees incurred to attend conferences to provide professional development to education staff.
* $101,134 in fudning for New Horizons Shelter and Women's Center, Inc. in La Crosse for Victim Assistance Formula Grant to provide victim services.
* $27,057 in fudning for Turning Point for Victims of Domestic and Sexual Violence, Inc. in River Falls for Victim Assistance Formula Grant to provide victim services.
* $46,305 in funding for the Ho-Chunk Nation in Black River Falls for the Family Wellness Retreat (9/30/2009) and the Taking Back your Community program (3/30/2010) to provided three daycare providers for participants of wellness event, Taking Back your Community Event, and gang prevention.
A list of all Recovery Act funding and projects underway in western Wisconsin can be found here.
Title X Funding
The federal government has been supporting voluntary family planning services since 1970 under Title X of the Public Health Service Act. Through the years, this funding has served as a tool to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies by providing valuable education to individuals and families. I believe it is important to provide families and women with all available options when it comes to family planning. For this reason, I am a co-sponsor of the Prevention First Act, H.R. 463, which allocates funding to the Title X program, and in turn provides funding to valuable programs such as Planned Parenthood.
As a former prosecutor, I have seen firsthand the devastating effects that domestic violence has on women and children. Nearly one-third of American women will be affected by domestic violence at some point in their lives. Throughout my time in Congress, I have been an adamant supporter of legislation that strengthens laws to protect women and their families from the horrors of domestic violence. Domestic violence is a tragic event in American society, and action must be taken to ensure that our children don't learn to deal with anger through abuse.