The League joined a letter to Members of Congress advocating for a swift passage of pay equity legislation. As the COVID pandemic reveals job losses primarily affecting Black and brown women, LWV believes it is critical that Congress moves on fair pay legislation.
Co-Sponsor and Support Swift Passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act
February 3, 2021
Dear Member of Congress:
As members of a broad coalition of organizations that promote economic opportunity for women and vigorous enforcement of antidiscrimination laws, we strongly urge you to co-sponsor and push for swift passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act as a top priority of the 117th Congress. Despite federal and state equal pay laws, gender pay gaps persist, and earnings lost to these gaps are exacerbating the financial effects of COVID-19, falling particularly heavily on women of color and the families who depend on their income. This legislation offers a much needed update to the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by providing new tools to battle pervasive pay gaps and to challenge discrimination.
The COVID-19 pandemic and systemic racism have exposed how the work performed primarily by women, and particularly Black and brown women, has long been and continues to be undervalued and underpaid, even as the rest of the country is newly recognizing the essential nature of this work. Black women, Latinas, and other women of color are especially likely to be on the front lines of the crisis, risking their lives in jobs in health care, child care, and grocery stores; they are also being paid less than their male counterparts. At the same time, women in this country lost more than 5 million jobsin 2020; indeed, women accounted for 100% of the jobs lost in December 2020. The unemployment rate for Black women and Latinas remains exceptionally high. These high jobless numbers threaten to exacerbate gender wage gaps when women regain employment. We cannot build back an economy that works for everyone without ensuring that all women can work with equality, safety, and dignity, starting with pay equity.
There is no more fitting way to begin this session than by making real, concrete progress in ensuring all women receive fair pay. The Paycheck Fairness Act updates and strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to ensure that it provides robust protection against sex-based pay discrimination. Among other provisions, this comprehensive bill bars retaliation against workers who voluntarily discuss or disclose their wages. It closes loopholes that have allowed employers to pay women less than men for the same work without any important business justification related to the job. It ensures women can receive the same robust remedies for sex-based pay discrimination that are currently available to those subjected to discrimination based on race and ethnicity. It prohibits employers from relying on salary history in determining future pay, so that pay discrimination does not follow women from job to job. And it also provides much needed training and technical assistance, as well as data collection and research.
Women are increasingly the primary or co-breadwinner in their families and cannot afford to be shortchanged any longer. Women working full-time, year-round are typically paid only 82 cents for every dollar paid to men. But for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts, Black women only make 63 cents, Native women only 60 cents, and Latinas only 55 cents. While Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women make 87 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men, women in many AAPI communities experience drastically wider pay gaps. Furthermore, moms are paid less than dads. And even when controlling for factors, such as education and experience, the pay gaps persist and start early in women’s careers and contribute to a wealth gap that follows them throughout their lifetimes. These pay gaps can be addressed only if workers have the legal tools necessary to challenge discrimination and employers are provided with effective incentives and technical assistance to comply with the law.
We recently commemorated the twelfth anniversary of the enactment of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. That vital law rectified the Supreme Court’s harmful decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. The law helps to ensure that individuals subjected to unlawful compensation discrimination are able to have their day in court and effectively assert their rights under federal antidiscrimination laws. But the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, critical as it is, is only one step on the path to ensuring women receive equal pay for equal work. It’s time to take the next step toward achieving equal pay. We urge you to prioritize the Paycheck Fairness Act in the 117th Congress by co-sponsoring and urging swift passage of this legislation, taking up the cause of Lilly Ledbetter and all those who have fought for equal pay.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Kate Nielson, Director of Public Policy & Legal Advocacy at the American Association of University Women at 202.728.7617 or [email protected], or Emily Martin, Vice President for Education & Workplace Justice at the National Women's Law Center at 202.588.5180 or [email protected]
For full list of signatories see attached letter