U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) announced today that the first bill he will cosponsor since being elected to the Senate is the Paycheck Fairness Act. The bill is aimed at combatting wage discrimination on the basis of gender.
Women earn only 77 cents for every dollar men earn, with women of color at an even greater disadvantage. Hispanic women make only 62 cents to the dollar. This disparity exists at all levels of education and occupation. The Paycheck Fairness Act would help close that gap by protecting workers from retaliation if they compare wages.
"It's 2013, and the fact that there is still not equal pay for equal work in this country is unacceptable. Rewarding work fairly is critical to strengthening New Mexico's middle class," said Sen. Heinrich.
The Paycheck Fairness Act takes critical steps to empower women to negotiate for equal pay, to close loopholes that courts have created in the law, to create strong incentives for employers to obey the laws that are in place, and to strengthen federal outreach and enforcement efforts.
Sen. Heinrich said, "I supported this measure four years ago, and will continue to support it until every woman is paid fairly for the work they do. I am proud to join my colleagues in the Senate in cosponsoring the Paycheck Fairness Act. In a time where many New Mexico families are struggling, especially families where women are the primary wage earners, every dollar counts. Women who work tirelessly to pay for child care, rent, and college tuition are forced to get by with less. Americans want and deserve concrete and immediate action to improve the economic security of working families."
Specifically, the Paycheck Fairness Act would:
* Clarify 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; is job related and is necessary for the business.
* Prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who discuss or disclose salary information with their co-workers.
* Strengthen the remedies available to include punitive and compensatory damages. Under current law, 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.
* Require the Department of Labor to improve outreach and training efforts to work with employers in order to eliminate pay disparities.
* Enhance 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.