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Tracking Race and Gender Data to Prevent Wage Discrimination

Can we prevent wage discrimination in the workplace if we understand its frequency? According to a recent article in CNN Money, a proposal from the White House would “require companies and federal contractors with more than 100 employees to report race and gender data across 12 different salary ranges to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.” If this data gets collected, it would include information from about 63 million employees in widely different salary ranges—from around $19,000 annual salaries to those over $200,000. Yet some employee advocates do not think this proposal will do much to stop wage discrimination.

Employment Categories May Not Give a Complete Picture of Wage Distinctions

One of the problems, an employer advocate suggested, is that the data could end up being misleading. If the proposal goes into effect, it will mean that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will receive more data concerning wages and salaries than it ever has previously. And that data may come to the EEOC with certain interpretive labels on it. In other words, as the article suggests, job titles such as “marketing manager” or “finance manager” could be placed into a single, broad category of jobs known by a title like “first/mid level officials and managers.”

Such a broad job category could suggest that marketing managers and finance managers are in similar positions with comparable salaries, when often that is not the case. As such, differences in salary may exist within a single category, but they may not reflect gender or racial biases. Additionally, those in opposition to data tracking argue that employees that do in fact have similar job descriptions may have vastly different salaries as a result of “experience, tenure, or performance reviews.” The article intimates that “there are all sorts of factors that are not discriminatory that might explain pay [differences].”

Previously, employers were required to complete EEOC forms and comply with an executive order, which, while assisting in litigation, did little to enhance rights of employees. As such, this proposal, albeit the center of debate, does take steps to advance employees’ rights overall.

Labor Department Says Tracking Will Provide Powerful Tool for Enforcement

Requiring employers to track data on salaries in relation to job descriptions, gender, and race may place additional responsibility on those employers that does not exist currently. However, is added effort on the part of employers worth it if it can help the Labor Department to curb wage discrimination?

Many advocates for employees’ rights and putting an end to workplace discrimination argue in favor of data tracking. According to the Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, the Labor Department needs this data to enforce the promise of equal pay for equal work. As he explained, “we can’t deliver on the promise of equal pay unless we have the best, most comprehensive information about what people earn.” The government will receive the first set of data in September of 2017.

According to the article, the recent proposal for data tracking is not the only step the Obama administration has taken to help put an end to wage discrimination. Indeed, during his first term in office, Obama signed The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This law “loosened the statute of limitations under which workers can sue employers for pay discrimination based on gender, race, age, or disability.”

Women and persons of color should be paid equally for their work. If we consider the most recent data from the Census Bureau, the average woman still earns substantially less than the average man performing the same work, and the gap grows for Hispanic and black women.

Although information from the data tracking will not be available until over a year from now, you should know that you have options if you believe your paycheck is discriminatory. An experienced West Palm Beach employment discrimination lawyer can help. Contact Scott • Wagner and Associates today.

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* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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