President Barack Obama has proposed a new rule requiring companies to provide salary data to the government in order to identify discriminatory pay practices. The proposal, announced on the seventh anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, would compel organizations with more than 100 employees to submit summary pay data to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission each year showing what employees of each gender, race, and ethnicity earn, according to a White House fact sheet. The rule, based on an earlier plan by the Department of Labor to collect similar information from federal contractors, would add to the information the commission collects on its existing EEO-1 form.
This rule can be enforced by executive action alone, but the president also urged Congress once again to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would require employers to prove that pay gaps exist for legitimate business reasons and not due to discrimination. In addition, the Council of Economic Advisors released an issue brief on the gender pay gap, noting that some progress has been made in the past few years toward closing the gap, but a considerable disparity between remains between men’s and women’s earnings, especially for women of color. The White House will host a summit on “The United State of Women” in May to discuss a variety of issues concerning women and girls.
The news of the proposed rule comes as advocates of equal pay for women are pushing state legislatures around the country to compel employers to address gender pay gaps in their workforces.
The Washington Post’s Lydia DePillis reports that “a coalition of progressive and women’s empowerment groups” is advancing pay equity bills in nearly half the states this week:
Out of the 24 or so bills that are being introduced across the country this week, some have been tried in previous sessions, and others are breaking new ground. They also offer a range of tools, ranging from conservative — simply boosting protections for people who discuss salaries at the workplace — to more aggressive. A bill in Massachusetts, for example, would prohibit recruiters from asking prospective hires their salary histories, so that being underpaid early in one’s career doesn’t permanently impair one’s earnings potential.
At the same time, that measure also grants companies an affirmative defense in court if they have already implemented a credible policy aimed at eradicating gender-based pay disparities.