White House announces actions to advance equal pay

Greg Nash

The Obama administration is proposing a rule that will force companies with 100 employees or more to report pay data by gender, race and ethnicity to further advance equal pay for women in the workplace. 

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White House and administration officials announced the measure in a call with reporters Thursday evening, but a more formal announcement is planned for Friday to mark the seventh anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The law, which Obama signed in 2009, aims to make it easier to challenge unequal pay by giving workers 180 days from the receipt of each discriminatory paycheck to file a lawsuit. 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is issuing the rule in partnership with the Department of Labor (DOL). EEOC Chair Jenny Yang said companies will report this new information on a new version of the commission’s longstanding EEO-1 form, which now requires employers with 100 employees or more to report demographic information on the total number of employees they have in 10 different job categories.    

“Collecting pay data will help fill a critical void in information we need to ensure Americans aren’t short-changed for their hard work,” she said. 

The EEOC is expecting to use the data to aid investigations, assess complaints and identify existing pay disparities that warrant further examination. 

“We anticipate completing the rule no later than September 2016, which means the first reports would be due September 30, 2017,” Yang said.   

Compliance costs are estimated to be $400 initially per company and around $200 yearly after that. Because the EEOC is accepting public comments on the rule through April 1, Yang said estimates could change depending on industry feedback. 

Along with the proposed rule, Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to the president, said the White House will host a Summit on “The United State of Women” on May 23 to look back at the progress that’s been made for women and girls in the America and around the world. 

On Friday, President Obama will also call on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation introduced in the Senate by Sen. Barbara MikulskiBarbara MikulskiThis week: Shutdown deadline looms over Congress Week ahead: Key court date for climate rule; Fight over Flint aid Week ahead: Spending fight shifts from Zika to Flint MORE (D-Md.) and in the House by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (R-Conn.). The bill would force employers to prove pay disparities are truly based on performance, not gender.  

According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, women make up almost half of the workforce, are the main breadwinner in four out of 10 families and receive more college and graduate degrees than men, but make only 79 cents for every dollar earned by men. 

Lilly Ledbetter, for whom the fair pay act was named after, made 40 percent less than her male colleagues at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. over the course of her career and as a result she now has less to live on in retirement since social security and employer 401K matches are based on how much a person makes.  

“I was short-changed and will be for the rest of my life,” she said in an interview with The Hill on Thursday. 

To young women entering the workforce, Ledbetter said beware of employers' attempts to take advantage and sell a lower salary by offering future raises.

“Raises are based on a percentage of what you are making,” she said. “You really have to get started on the right foot.”