Equal Pay Day is the symbolic day where women’s earnings finally catch up to men’s earnings for the previous year. The gender pay gap results in women receiving about 23 percent less in pay than men, and it takes women an extra three months of wages to make up that difference each year.
Equal Pay Day 2014 falls on April 8 in 2014.
Our country has made recent strides in attempting to remedy gender pay inequity.
On Jan. 29, 2009, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was signed into law. Lilly worked for nearly two decades at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in Gadsden, Ala.
Ledbetter made less money than her male coworkers with the exact same job. By the time she retired, Lilly lost more than $200,000 in salary, benefits and retirement savings due to gender pay discrimination. Lilly later filed a lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and was awarded back pay and other remedies in a jury trial.
The U.S. Supreme Court later reversed this decision, finding that Lilly did not bring her suit in time. In response, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was signed into law by President Obama as the first bill he signed after taking office. The act itself makes it easier for plaintiffs to bring a lawsuit on the basis of pay discrimination.
As a member of the American Association of University Women, we are thrilled that we were able to pass this legislation to reverse the 2007 Supreme Court decision that tried to rob women such as Lilly of their day in court to challenge unequal pay. But we need additional legislation to give employers and employees the tools to prevent wage discrimination in the first place — and we’ve been waiting too long for that.
The legislation designed to help ensure equal pay hasn’t been updated in 50 years, even though the work force has significantly changed since then.
That’s why Congress needs to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would close loopholes that prevent the original legislation from fully addressing the pay gap.
The Paycheck Fairness Act would require employers to prove that pay disparity is based on a legitimate business reason not related to gender, or due to seniority, merit or productivity. It would also prohibit retaliation against workers who discuss or ask about salary information.
Lawmakers who do not actively support the Paycheck Fairness Act are denying women their economic security and simply refusing to acknowledge our state’s needs.
Mona J. Geidl
Public Policy Chairwoman
AAUW Walla Walla Chapter