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Bonamici, Adams Chair Hearing on Equal Pay

February 13, 2019
Press Release

 

WASHINGTON, DC [02/13/19] – Today Congresswomen Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Chair of the Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services, and Alma S. Adams (D-NC), Chair of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, held a joint Education and Labor Committee hearing on the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The legislation, H.R. 7, addresses the persistent problem of gender-based wage discrimination by taking important steps to protect workers and hold employers accountable.  It would require employers to prove that a pay disparity exists for legitimate reasons, improve enforcement tools, ban retaliation against workers who discuss their wages, and remove obstacles for workers to challenge systemic pay discrimination.

“In 1963, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act and our country enshrined into law a fundamental concept: equal pay for equal work, regardless of sex,” Civil Rights and Human Services Chair Suzanne Bonamici said in her opening remarks. “Unfortunately, loopholes and insufficient enforcement have allowed wage discrimination to persist… We have the opportunity to disrupt a national cycle of discriminatory pay that keeps too many women and families in poverty…and finally make equal pay for equal work a reality by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act.”

“Today in my District in North Carolina, women still only make about 82 cents for every dollar a man makes. ...Women of color are even less likely to make as much as a man working the same job,” Workforce Protections Chair Alma S. Adams said in her remarks. “When women are shortchanged our children, families and our economy are shortchanged. ... The Paycheck Fairness Act is an opportunity for Congress to strengthen the Equal Pay Act, bolster the rights of working women, and put an end to gender-based wage disparity once and for all.”

The full opening remarks from both Chairs can be found below.

The joint Subcommittee hearing on the Paycheck Fairness Act was the first hearing of the 116th Congress for both the Subcommittees on Civil Rights and Human Services and Workforce Protections.

 

Opening Statement of Chair Suzanne Bonamici

 

In 1963, President Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act and our country enshrined into law a fundamental concept: “equal pay for equal work, regardless of sex.” Because of this landmark law, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and more recently, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, we have made tremendous progress in reducing inequities for women in the workplace.

 

Unfortunately, loopholes and insufficient enforcement have allowed wage discrimination to persist. The Equal Pay Act has been law for more than a half century, but in 2019 equal pay for equal work is not always a reality.

 

Today, women earn, on average, 80 cents on the dollar compared to white men in substantially equal jobs. The wage gap is even worse for women of color. For example, Black women earn an average of 61 cents on the dollar, Native women earn an average of 58 cents on the dollar, and Latina women earn an average of 53 cents on the dollar compared to white men in substantially equal jobs. The wage gap persists in nearly every line of work, regardless of education, experience, occupation, industry, or job title. This has severe consequences for the lives of working women and families and for our economy.

 

The lack of easily accessible data on wages makes discrimination difficult to detect, let alone prevent. Even when wage discrimination is discovered, working women still face significant barriers to meet the heavy burden of proof for holding employers accountable for discrimination. Not only is it difficult to prove a pay disparity between employees, identifying an employee of the opposite sex in an equal position who is paid more in the exact same physical location can be impossible in many situations. This is even more challenging when information about wages and pay raises is often kept secret, and in many cases, even barred from being shared between coworkers.

The roadblocks to enforcing pay equity help explain why pay inequity still exists for women – even with the Equal Pay Act. Several states have acted to address pay inequities, including bipartisan efforts in my home state of Oregon, but it is time for Congress to address persistent wage discrimination nationwide. Today’s legislative hearing will focus on H.R. 7, the Paycheck Fairness Act, a proposal to confront and eliminate loopholes that allow for gender-based wage discrimination.

 

The Paycheck Fairness Act would require employers to prove that a pay disparity exists for legitimate reasons. It would ban retaliation against workers who discuss their wages, and allow more workers to participate in class action lawsuits against systemic pay discrimination. It would prohibit employers from seeking the salary history of prospective employees, which despite ongoing legal disputes, is in line with existing precedent. The bill would also develop wage data collection systems, and provide assistance to businesses to improve equal pay practices.

 

With this legislation we have the opportunity to disrupt a national cycle of discriminatory pay that keeps too many women and families in poverty. And we have the opportunity to finally make equal pay for equal work a reality by passing the Paycheck Fairness Act.

 

Thank you and I now yield to the Ranking Member, Mr. Comer.

 

Opening Statement of Chairwoman Alma Adams

Good morning.

 

I want to share my appreciation to Chairwoman Bonamici, Ranking Members Byrne and Comer, and to the witnesses who have joined us here today for this important discussion.

 

Thank you for being here today.

 

It takes the average woman an additional 91 days—three additional months—to earn what her male peers earned in 2018.

 

That is unacceptable.

 

From the North Carolina House to the U.S. House, for 3 decades, I have been fighting to close gender and gender-based wage gaps.

 

Today, I feel like Fannie Lou Hamer – Sick and tired of being sick and tired of this ongoing inequality.

 

Fifty-six years have passed since we signed the Equal Pay Act into law.

 

And it’s been ten years since President Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

 

But today in my District in North Carolina, women still only make about 82 cents for every dollar a man makes.

 

And nationally, that statistic is even worse – 80 cents for every dollar.

 

Women of color are even less likely to make as much as a man working the same job.

 

Black women earn only 63 cents for every dollar a man makes.

 

When women are shortchanged our children, families and our economy are shortchanged.

 

In fact, it shortchanges us 500 billion dollars annually.

 

That’s why, as the new chair of the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections, I am proud to co-host the subcommittee’s first hearing on addressing persistent gender-based wage discrimination through the Paycheck Fairness Act.

 

We can no longer wait while, every day, women across the nation are deprived of equal wages for equal work.

 

Time’s up for that.

 

The Paycheck Fairness Act is an opportunity for Congress to strengthen the Equal Pay Act, bolster the rights of working women, and put an end to gender-based wage disparity once and for all.

 

It’s the right thing to do because it’s right!

 

At this time, I ask unanimous consent to introduce for the record four letters all in support of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

 

One from the National Partnership for Women & Families, one from the American Bar Association, one from the American Association of University Women, and one from the National Women’s Law Center.

 

I look forward to our discussion today and yield to the Ranking Member, Mr. Byrne.

 

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