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Lilly Ledbetter Equal Pay Act – Where Are We Now?

Five years ago, President Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, making it the first bill the new president signed. The Act was written to address the unequal salaries given to women and men for equal work. “It restored worker protections against pay discrimination, [and allowed] individuals who face pay discrimination to seek rectification under federal anti-discrimination laws,” according to Investopia.com. It was a shining moment in equality for workers of opposite genders and brought some momentum to the cause.

Now at the five-year anniversary, has the legislation closed up the gap? Not really. Let’s look at the context. According to an Institute for Women’s Policy Research 2010 study, women made up nearly half the workforce and are sole or primary breadwinners in 40% of homes. “Yet, on average, women continue to earn considerably less than men. In 2010, female full-time workers made only 77 cents for every dollar earned by men… Women, on average, earn less than men in virtually every single occupation for which there is sufficient earnings data for both.” In 2014, the situation has not improved much. In fact, studies show the difference hasn’t changed for 10 years.

So what are our politicians doing about it? Since Lilly Ledbetter passed in 2009, Congress has attempted to pass parallel legislation, the Paycheck Fairness Act. It was, however, defeated twice between 2009 and 2012. Part of this act is currently under consideration by President Obama. In Ledbetter’s own words:

As AAUW has recommended, the president could start by issuing an executive order that would ban federal contractors from retaliating against workers who ask about wage practices or share salary information. This is a critical element of the stalled Paycheck Fairness Act. And the president doesn’t need to wait for Congress; he has the power to put it in place with another history-making stroke of his pen. Even better, this action would help dismantle what was my largest barrier all those years ago — not knowing that I was being paid unfairly and having no way to find out.

A ray of hope was offered at President Obama’s State of the Union address on January 28th, 2014. He received a standing ovations when he commented on women’s diminished wages, “That is wrong, and in 2014, it’s an embarrassment. A woman deserves equal pay for equal work.” According to Deboorah J. Vagins,  “In his State of the Union, the President said he would use his executive authority to expand opportunity for more American families.” He pledged “to crack down on violations of equal pay laws.” In accordance with this pledge the Administration created the “National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force“, bringing together the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), the Department of Labor (“DOL”), and the Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”).”

Equal pay for women may have a way to go but President Obama’s showing support for it is certainly encouraging. If you think you may be facing wage discrimination due to your gender, age or other factor, it’s time to contact Scott Wagner and Associates, P.A.. Our extensive knowledge in the area of wage discrimination can help you bring the situation to a positive resolution.

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Florida 561-653-0008 California 213-377-5200
* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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