Student Op-Eds

The Paycheck Fairness Act: Blocked by Republican Senators Again

Micaela Edelson ’17 Inside Politics

On April 9, 2014, the motion to reintroduce the Paycheck Fairness Act was blocked by the U.S. Senate Republicans. Two days prior, President Obama signed an executive order that would encourage federal contractors to make salary information more accessible, so women and minorities would be able to know if they were being paid unfairly.

However, the Senate did not agree with President Obama’s advancements toward gender pay equality. The Washington Post states that the Paycheck Fairness Act would have allowed employees to inquire about another employee’s wages in a complaint or investigation without the risk of employer retaliation. Thus, female employees would be allowed to check if they are receiving the same wages as their male counterparts. This act would also require employers to provide the Department of Labor with wage data, organized by race and gender, as well as display the wage differentials between males and females in the same job position. April 9th was the third time this act has been blocked in Congress; it was only six votes short of being open for debate.

In 2009, President Obama signed the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which extended the period of time available for women to sue on the basis of gender discrimination. This law allows the 180-day time period to file a lawsuit be reset with every paycheck that is affected by the discrimination. However, this act did little to stifle the evermore present gender pay inequality. Currently, females receive an average of seventy-seven cents for every dollar a male earns. This disparity is even present in the President’s administration. In 2011, female federal workers received an average salary of 93% of what their male colleagues received.

Gender wage equality falls under the category of civil rights. An employee should not be discriminated against based on gender, race, religion, sexuality, and numerous more defining characteristics. However, President Obama argues that “this is not just an issue of fairness…it’s also a family issue and an economic issue.” As women consist of half of the workforce, the disparity just decreases the amount of economic activity in the market.

One argument in opposition of this act that has been made all three times it has been rejected, is that one of the only results would be an increase in lawsuits against employers. Some Republican senators have even argued that this law is condescending to women. Senator Lynn Jenkins (R-KS) states, “Many ladies I know feel like they are being used as pawns, and find it condescending [that] Democrats are trying to use this issue as a political distraction from the failure of their economic policy.”

The significance of this vote is that the act was not even opened for debate. If Senate Democrats and Republicans cannot even agree to debate the gender pay gap, it is unlikely that an agreement regarding the best approach to address the inequality will be reached anytime soon.