House

House passes Paycheck Fairness Act

Stefani Reynolds

A bill aimed at strengthening protections against wage discrimination and holding employers accountable passed the House mostly along party lines on Wednesday.

The chamber voted 242-187 for the Paycheck Fairness Act, with seven Republicans joining Democrats in voting for the bill. It was co-sponsored by 238 Democrats and GOP Rep. Chris Smith (N.J.).

Proponents of the legislation argue it’s a necessary step to close the wage gap. It has been introduced multiple times since 1997 to amend the Equal Pay Act and Fair Labor Standards Act, and was reintroduced by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) in January.{mosads}

“After decades of failing to address persistent wage inequity, this is our opportunity to strengthen the Equal Pay Act, boast the rights of working women, lift families out of poverty, and finally align our remedies for gender discrimination with other established anti-discrimination laws,” House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said during debate.

GOP Reps. Rodney Davis (Ill.), Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.), Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Will Hurd (Texas), Tom Reed (N.Y.), Mike Simpson (Idaho) and Smith joined Democrats in voting for the measure on Wednesday.

The bill includes provisions that would bar employers from inquiring about prospective employees’ salaries, prohibit retaliation against employees who compare wages and require employers to demonstrate that pay discrepancies are based on legitimate factors. The legislation would also push to eliminate “barriers” that would make it more difficult for employees to file a class-action lawsuit over pay discrimination and would create a program providing training on negotiation for females.

Critics of the bill argue it fails to strengthen equal work for equal pay and could potentially lead to an influx of unnecessary lawsuits.

“Everyone in this House is in agreement that pay discrimination on the basis of sex is wrong. No matter how you look at it, the law is very clear about this. But this bill doesn’t do anything to help working women. This is a bill for trial lawyers, plain and simple,” House Education and Workforce Committee Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), said on the floor ahead of the vote.

“And that’s what shows a fundamental difference in outlook and principle. Democrats want women to sue their bosses, Republicans want women to become the bosses.”

GOP Rep. Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) is leading the efforts on an alternative bill, the WAGE Equity Act, aimed at eliminating gender pay discrepancies, Politico first reported.

The Democratic-backed bill is unlikely to see movement in the GOP-controlled Senate.

Tags Bobby Scott Brian Fitzpatrick Chris Smith Elise Stefanik Mario Diaz-Balart Mike Simpson Rodney Davis Rosa DeLauro Tom Reed Virginia Foxx Will Hurd

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