The Senate Just Took A Huge Step Towards Reducing Gender Wage Gap By Passing The Paycheck Fairness Act

The Senate Just Took A Huge Step Towards Reducing Gender Wage Gap By Passing The Paycheck Fairness Act

The House recently passed the act. The bill aims at strenghtening protection against wage discrimination.

Wage discrimination has been a problem for decades. Women have been paid lower wages as compared to men even though they are at the same post or sometimes higher. Women who work equally hard and in some cases put in longer hours at work do not get paid appropriately for their effort and time. They undergo the same levels of stress (or more, depending on their job, their post, and their family dynamics) as men do and even though this issue has been recognized in recent years, nothing much has been done about it. Recently, the Paycheck Fairness Act that seeks to help women attain fair wages achieved its first victory on Capitol Hill. The bill is aimed at addressing wage inequality and encouraging workplace impartiality for women. It was passed in the legislation with 242-187 votes in favor of the bill. The bill would also prevent employers to ask about their workers' past salaries or penalize them for inquiring about wage differences, as reported by The Hill

The bill is officially known as HR 7 and has repeatedly been introduced in the legislation since 1997. This year, Connecticut Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro reintroduced it in January. The bill was cosponsored by 238 Democrats and one Republican, New Jersey Rep. Chris Smith. "After decades of failing to address persistent wage inequity, this is our opportunity to strengthen the Equal Pay Act, boast the rights of working women, lift families out of poverty, and finally align our remedies for gender discrimination with other established anti-discrimination laws," Bobby Scott, the chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee said on Wednesday.


The legislation also aims at eliminating barriers that would make it more difficult for employees to file a class-action lawsuit over pay discrimination. There are also plans to create training programmes to provide negotiation training for female employees. Although there were Republican representatives who crossed lines to show their support, there are plenty who are not in favor of the Act. The critics suggest that the bill does not encourage equal work for equal pay and could lead to an influx of unnecessary lawsuits.


"Everyone in this House is in agreement that pay discrimination on the basis of sex is wrong. No matter how you look at it, the law is very clear about this. But this bill doesn't do anything to help working women. This is a bill for trial lawyers, plain and simple," said House Education and Workforce Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), on the floor ahead of the vote. "And that's what shows a fundamental difference in outlook and principle. Democrats want women to sue their bosses, Republicans want women to become the bosses.”


Despite the critics, the Paycheck Fairness Act has been praised by many. People suggest that this bill is much-needed and should have been passed a long time ago. Virginia Democratic Rep. Jennifer Wexton showed her support for the bill through a tweet. The pay gap isn't a myth. she said. It’s math: for a woman working full time, the current wage gap represents a loss of more than $400,000 over the course of her career. Let's send a message that when women succeed, America succeeds — let’s pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.


There are multiple reasons behind the pay difference seen between men and women. One of the reasons is that women are less likely to negotiate pay and they are also more likely to get penalized when they try to. Women often face job restrictions and are seen to be pushed out of the highest paying jobs so that men can take the post. As reported by Vox, women with equal experience, women who spend equal number of hours at work, and same job titles were making far lesser than their male colleagues. However, researchers suggest that discrimination accounts for only one-third of the difference in pay.


The Equal Pay Act says employers can’t differentiate salary based on gender unless a number of factors — including seniority, merit, and work level — come into play. “We are in a different environment,” said DeLauro. “We’re looking at the intersection of where the public is on men and women and the workforce, and we’re looking at a body that is over 100 women who are here. Equal pay for equal work is now the center of public discourse today.” The bill has won the first round but it is still unclear whether it has a path in the Senate, however, advocates are feeling very optimistic about it this time, given the diverse House class. “I think there have been gaps in understanding around women’s experience that this new and diverse Congress can begin to close,” said Victoria Budson, executive director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard University’s Kennedy School.


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