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Senators Harkin and Clinton Assail Bush Administration for Failing to Crack Down on Pay Discrimination

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

New Report Shows Federal Government Has Failed to Monitor Enforcement of Pay Discrimination Laws

Unveiling the findings of a new Government Accountability Office (GAO) study, Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) today assailed the Bush Administration for its failure to crack down on pay inequity. The report, which Senators Harkin and Clinton requested along with Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), shows that the federal government has failed to adequately monitor enforcement of our nation's pay discrimination laws. In light of the findings, the Senators reiterated their call for the Senate to pass legislation that would strengthen our pay discrimination laws and take steps to erase pay inequities, including the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the Fair Pay Act, and the Paycheck Fairness Act.

"I am deeply disturbed we cannot even get an accurate accounting of the Administration's enforcement of laws protecting equal pay for women." Harkin said. "Thanks to GAO, we will have a better understanding of uphill battle we have to fight to ensure equality for women in the workplace. Now, it's up to Congress to pass laws to rectify these injustices so that women get the fair, equal pay that they deserve."

"The Federal government should be leading the charge in closing the wage gap but this report makes clear that the Bush Administration is shirking its responsibility. We must hold the Bush Administration accountable for enforcing equal pay requirements already on the books and we must finally end the pay inequity that is short-changing women and families by enacting the Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act," said Senator Clinton.

"Senator Kennedy strongly believes that federal dollars should never be used to support discrimination in any form. Government contractors must provide fair employment opportunities for all Americans. This GAO report Senator Kennedy requested with Senators Harkin and Clinton is a loud wake-up call. It shows that the Department of Labor is AWOL in its responsibility to make sure that women who work for federal contractors receive equal pay for equal work. Senator Kennedy calls on the Department to adopt strict rules and vigorously enforce the law," said Anthony Coley, spokesman for Senator Edward M. Kennedy, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The GAO study announced today is the first half of the report requested by Senators Harkin, Kennedy and Clinton and Congresswoman Maloney to investigate the role the federal government has and can play to remedy pay inequities in the workplace. The report, entitled "Federal Agencies Should Better Monitor Their Performance in Enforcing Anti-Discrimination Laws," found that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is charged with enforcing pay discrimination, does not monitor its gender pay performance in a comprehensive manner. The GAO also found Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) data and performance monitoring, as well as its compliance and enforcement efforts, to be limited. The report recommends that the EEOC and OFCCP monitor performance of enforcement efforts more closely and that the OFCCP implement a more rigorous data system to carry out its duties. The GAO will release the results from the second half of their study, which focuses on the private sector, between January and March of 2009.

Three bills now before the Senate would take steps to remedy pay inequities in the workplace.

The Fair Pay Act was introduced by Senator Harkin in the Senate and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton in the House. It requires employers to provide equal pay for jobs that are comparable in skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions. The Fair Pay Act would apply to each company individually and would prohibit companies from reducing other employees' wages to achieve pay equity. It also requires public disclosure of employer job categories and their pay scales, without requiring specific information on individual employees.

The Paycheck Fairness Act was introduced by Senator Clinton in the Senate and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro in the House, and the measure passed the House last month. The legislation would strengthen protections and remedies under the Equal Pay Act, prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information with their co-workers, create a training program to help women strengthen their negotiation skills, enforce equal pay laws for federal contractors and require the Department of Labor to work with employers to eliminate pay disparities by enhancing outreach and training efforts. Also, the bill would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information with their co-workers.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act would overturn the decision in 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 restores a reasonable time limit for filing pay discrimination claims by starting the clock for filing pay discrimination claims each time the discriminatory compensation is received, rather than when the employer initially decides to discriminate. The bill mirrors language prohibiting discriminatory seniority systems, which was included in the Civil Rights Act of 1991. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passed the House of Representatives last year.

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