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Pay Equity Matters: Mind the Gap

The Pennsylvania House of Representatives recently introduced a bill that would amend the commonwealth’s Equal Pay Law by requiring employers to provide pay transparency to applicants and employees alike, bringing Pennsylvania to the forefront of the pay equity discussion. While the measure has a long way before becoming law, it is well worth keeping an eye on this development – not only those with business in Pennsylvania, but those across the country who may find that their local jurisdiction might one day follow its lead.

The national conversation around issues of gender equality and the demands for pay equity is driving rapid changes in the law. Many states – including New York, California, Massachusetts, Oregon and New Jersey – have passed robust legislation in an attempt to close the pay gap between men and women in the workplace. At the same time, employers are grappling with an uptick in claims alleging sexual harassment and discrimination sparked by the #metoo movement.

A California federal judge today granted the U.S. Women’s National Team an early victory in their pay equity battle against the U.S. Soccer Federation (the Federation), granting class certification to a group of players who want to collectively assert their gender-related legal claims. While Judge Gary Klausner’s order is just the first of several hurdles the women’s team will have to overcome in order to successfully challenge the pay structure that they allege favor the men’s team, it is an important milestone in any class action.

A federal judge yesterday ordered the EEOC to continue its pay data collection efforts and complete its efforts into next year, ruling that an insufficient number of employers have submitted their revised EEO-1 reports. Although the agency tried to shut down the pay data collection process by pointing out that over 80% of eligible employers had turned in their 2017 and 2018 compensation information, the court said that more could be done and ordered the agency to keep at it and complete its work by January 31, 2020.

Pay equity concerns in Hollywood are not limited to famous actresses (such as Michelle Williams) or comediennes (such as Mo’Nique). As reported this week by the Hollywood Reporter, the co-writer of smash hit “Crazy Rich Asians” rejected the chance to write two sequels to the movie after learning that she was slated to be paid about one-eighth of what her male co-writer would earn. While the dispute arose late last year and was just recently revealed, it aptly demonstrates that gender pay disparities still exist even in prominent positions. This story should be another reminder for your company to ensure your act is cleaned up before you pay the price.

As the newly crowned world champion U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team members received their winners’ medals Sunday, chants of “equal pay!” reverberated through the stadium. Those in attendance were well aware that the men’s 2018 World Cup prize was $400 million, while the female players will receive $30 million this year. Support for the athletes in their fight for pay equal to that received by their male counterparts also appeared to be behind fans booing FIFA president Gianni Infantino. Recognition of the issue was evident on social media, with Twitter reporting that there were five times more tweets about “pay” after the win, according to the BBC.   

A few months ago, Kamala Harris unveiled an ambitious plan to introduce stricter legal measures to force employers to comply with pay equity standards. Fellow senator and Democratic presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren has now announced her own pay equity plan that she would push were to she capture the White House in 2020. Warren’s plan, released on July 5, would promote pay equity – with a special focus on aiding women of color – by imposing new federal contractor rules and strengthening enforcement against systemic discrimination.

Alabama recently joined 48 other states by passing a law banning wage discrimination. On June 11, Governor Kay Ivey signed HB 225, known as the Clarke Figures Equal Pay Act, into law. The Act’s effective date is August 1. In passing the new law, Alabama now joins over a dozen other states which prohibit employers from discriminating against applicants based on their pay history. The idea behind such prohibition is that, in doing so, employers perpetuate the wage gap among men and women by locking women into unfair, discriminatory pay levels.

Tags: Equal Pay

An Oregon federal court judge just denied Nike’s motion to dismiss a class action on behalf of 500 or more of its current and former female employees alleging sex discrimination in pay. 

If a prominent candidate for the 2020 Democratic nomination for president has her way, federal pay equity law would be strengthened to add some real teeth—and the spoils of the increased financial penalties would fund a national leave policy. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) unveiled a plan on Monday that would require employers to receive affirmative certification from the EEOC that they are in compliance with federal pay equity law, or risk facing a fine equal to 1 percent of their profits for every 1 percent of the wage gap that exists between genders. The fines collected would then be invested in building universal paid family and medical leave. This is the boldest proposal taken to date by any presidential candidate vying for a shot at the White House in 2020, and may spur the current slate of candidates to begin a substantive conversation about pay equity on the national stage.

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