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Cantwell: "Equal Pay for Women is Not About Publicity"

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Cantwell: "Equal Pay for Women is Not About Publicity"
At a Time When Women Still Earn 77 Cents for Every Dollar Earned by Men, Cantwell Appalled that Senate Voted to Block Debate on Equal Pay for Women and Minorities

On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) expressed outrage over Republican leadership's blockage of legislation that would have ensured that women earn equal pay for equal work. Despite passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, today, women make only 77 cents for every dollar made by a man. The United States Senate is currently considering numerous pieces of legislation that would give all employees a better shot at a fair workplace, making it easier to ensure justice for those who have been discriminated against based on sex, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, and age. By a vote of 56-42, the Senate was unsuccessful in moving toward debate on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (HR 5341).

"Our children need to grow up in a world where they are confident they are going to get equal pay for equal work," said Cantwell on the Senate floor. "It is an injustice that as our country faces uncertain economic times, millions of Americans aren't receiving equal pay for equal work. I am appalled that some of my colleagues failed to step up and act immediately to restore a women's right to fair pay."

Lilly Ledbetter was a female supervisor at a Goodyear tire plant in Gadsen, Alabama. For nearly 20 years, Ledbetter worked at Goodyear receiving pay that was far less than the amounts earned by her male co-workers regardless of each employee doing the same amount of work. Ledbetter didn't know about the inequity until, close to her retirement, she received an anonymous note informing her of the pay discrimination. Seeking to rectify this injustice, Ledbetter sued Goodyear. A jury found that Goodyear had discriminated against Ledbetter, and awarded her more than $3 million in damages.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (HR 5341) would overturn Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., in which a divided Supreme Court held that workers must sue for pay discrimination within 180 days after the original pay-setting decision, even if the pay discrimination continues after the 180-day period. The Fair Pay Act would start the clock for filing pay discrimination claims when discriminatory compensation is received, rather than when the employer decides to discriminate. Each discriminatory paycheck would restart the clock for filing a pay discrimination claim.

"This bill is simply about ensuring that our discrimination laws reflect the realities of the workplace. There is simply no way that Lilly Ledbetter could have looked at her paycheck and known she had been discriminated against. Congress made sure an identity theft victim retained their right to file a claim when they became aware their identity was stolen. Congress should have stepped up today to ensure that a victim of discrimination is not barred from seeking justice because she didn't, and couldn't, know her pay was inequitable," continued Cantwell.

Cantwell is also a cosponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act (S.766) authored by Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY). The bill will take critical steps to empower women to negotiate for equal pay, to create strong incentives for employers to obey the laws that are in place, and to strengthen federal outreach and enforcement efforts. As a whole, the Paycheck Fairness Act will prevent, regulate and reduce pay discrimination for women across the country.

Specifically, (S.766) would:

* Create a training program to help women strengthen their negotiation skills;
* Enforce Equal Pay laws for federal contractors;
* Require the Department of Labor to enhance outreach and training efforts to work with employers to eliminate pay disparities;
* Prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information with their co-workers;
* Allow women to sue for punitive damages in addition to compensatory damages under the Equal Pay Act; and
* Require the Department of Labor to continue collecting and disseminating information about women workers.

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