U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) today marked "Equal Pay Day" by cosponsoring the Paycheck Fairness Act, introduced Tuesday to build on the promise of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and help close the pay gap between women and men.
"The promise of equal opportunity for those who wish to strive to their fullest economic potential is a cornerstone of this nation," Senator Coons said. "In a country where women surpass men in earning college degrees, it's outrageous that women in Delaware still earn 78% of what men earn. I'm proud to cosponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act, which will help us remedy this unacceptable disparity."
The bill, which was sponsored by Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), would improve the Equal Pay Act by:
* Clarifying the "any factor other than sex" defense so that an employer trying to justify paying a man more than a woman for the same job must show that the disparity is not sex-based; but is job-related and is necessary for the business.
* Prohibiting employers from retaliating against employees who discuss or disclose salary information with their co-workers.
* Strengthening the remedies available to include punitive and compensatory damages. Under the EPA currently, plaintiffs can only recover back pay or, in some cases, double back pay. The bill would ensure that women can receive the same remedies for pay discrimination that are available under other laws for discrimination based on race and national origin.
* Requiring the Department of Labor to improve outreach and training efforts to work with employers in order to eliminate pay disparities.
* Enhancing the collection of information on women's and men's wages in order to more fully explore the reasons for the wage gap and help employers in addressing pay disparities.
* Create a new grant program to help strengthen the negotiation skills of girls and women.
Although women comprise 46 percent of the workforce, studies have shown they earn only 75 cents on the dollar compared to what men earn for doing the same work. African American women make only 71 cents on the dollar and Hispanic women make only 62 cents on the dollar. According to the American Association of University Women, the median salary for women in Delaware in 2009 was $37,645, as compared to $48,038 for men.
The Paycheck Fairness Act is being cosponsored by Senators Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), Pat Leahy (D-Vt.), Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
The bill is supported by the AAUW, ACLU, National Organization for Women, National Women's Law Center, ABA, Business and Professional Women, AFL-CIO, Association for Women in Science, Women of Color Policy Network, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Committee on Pay Equity, U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce, B'nai Brith, Episcopal Church, Hadassah, Islamic Society of North America, National Council of Jewish Women, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Sojourners, United Church of Christ, and United Methodists.