Re: Proposed Information Collection; Collection Request (ICR) for the Survey of Working Women; Comment Request (Document Citation: 80 FR 10516)
Dear Ms. Adams:
We appreciate the opportunity to respond to the proposed information collection published by the Department of Labor (the Department) on the 2015 Survey of Working Women. The National Women’s Law Center (the Center) has worked to advance opportunities for women in employment and been a leader in analysis and advocacy to promote policies that improve the lives of women and their families for over 40 years. The Center’s comments will focus on the value of collecting information on women’s employment decisions and issues at the intersection of work and family obligations.
The Center is pleased to see the Department undertaking additional data collection on women’s current employment challenges and how these issues, particularly women’s family obligations, relate to their job and career decisions. Increasing data collection on these topics is a critical part of understanding how family obligations impact women’s employment decisions and substantially improves the amount and quality of information available to employers, advocates, and other stakeholders.
Since the Department of Labor’s Women’s Bureau published the Working Women Count! Survey in 1994, there have been significant changes to both the economy and family life in the United States. These changes, including the Great Recession[i] and subsequent increase in low-wage workers,[ii] and the rise of women as breadwinners,[iii] have affected women’s roles in the family and the workforce. However, there is a dearth of current data regarding women’s employment decisions, leaving policymakers without the information necessary to create the best policies to address the issues facing women in the workforce today.
Expanding the available data on women’s employment choices—and how these choices might be affected by issues such as the affordability of child care, scheduling practices, sexual harassment, ability to enter non-traditional jobs, availability of paid sick leave, or stagnant or discriminatory wages—is essential for better policy creation. Collecting high-quality data on these and other issues will create a valuable resource for policymakers, employers, advocates, and other stakeholders who are concerned with ensuring that women are able to pursue their desired work and family arrangements.
Additionally important is that the factors affecting employment decisions may vary for different groups of women depending on age, gender identity, race, national origin, education level, marital or parental status, or other reasons. The Center encourages the Department to examine work and family interactions across a range of different groups of women.
The Center supports the Department’s effort to collect data on women and their perceptions about the intersection of work and family. With the relevant data, policymakers can create better policies that protect all women and their families from unfair treatment in the workplace. Lacking this data, employers, researchers, and advocates are without key information for analysis of women’s employment choices.
The Center appreciates this opportunity to comment.
The National Women's Law Center recently submitted comments to the Department of Labor in strong support of the following proposed regulations:
1. Government Contractors - Requirement to Report Summary Data on Employee Compensation
We strongly support the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program’s (OFCCP) proposal to collect pay data from federal contractors and subcontractors andincorporate it into the agency’s decisions about how to allocate its enforcement resources. The Equal Pay Report will promote the critically important goals of improving enforcement of pay discrimination laws and increasing voluntary employer compliance with those laws. We also wish to make some suggestions for strengthening the proposal to ensure achievement of these goals—by expanding the scope of contractors that must report pay information, ensuring timely and accurate reporting by contractors and subcontractors, and considering relevant information in establishing priorities for enforcement activities. Finally, we share some further thoughts for how OFCCP can promote contractor compliance with pay discrimination prohibitions in its compliance evaluation processes.
2. Government Contractors - Prohibitions Against Pay Secrecy Policies and Actions
We strongly support the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program’s (OFCCP) proposed rule implementing Executive Order 13665, which requires that certain federal contractors allow employees and applicants to inquire about, discuss, and disclose compensation information without fear of retribution or penalty. Our comments provide recommendations to ensure its effectiveness. We note that although our comments are primarily focused on how the proposed rule will impact women overall and women of color specifically, the proposed rule is an important step toward narrowing the wage gap for women, workers of color, and all workers.
Families depend on women’s wages more than ever, but women working full time, year round are typically paid less than full-time, year-round male workers in every state. Nationally, women working full time, year round typically make only 78.3 cents for every dollar a man makes and the size of the disparity varies by state. Women fare best in Washington, D.C., where women working full time, year round typically make 91.3 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make. New York and Maryland follow Washington, D.C. with the ratio of women’s to men’s earnings above 85 percent in both states. Women fare worst relative to men in Louisiana, where women’s earnings represented only 65.9 percent of men’s earnings.
Almost 35 years after the Pregnancy Discrimination Act made it illegal to discriminate against a woman because of her pregnancy, women still face discrimination on the job when they become pregnant. This report details what happens when some workers ask for temporary modifications of their job duties because of pregnancy, such as avoiding heavy lifting, staying off high ladders, or being permitted to sit down during a long shift.
THE EQUAL PAY ACT is the landmark law passed 50 years ago that requires employers to pay men and women equally for substantially equal work. Yet 50 years later, equal pay is still America’s unfinished business.
The Equal Pay Act (EPA) of 1963 made it illegal for employers to pay unequal wages to men and women who perform substantially equal work. Yet today, women earn only 78 cents for every dollar earned by men. The Paycheck Fairness Act would update and strengthen the EPA by improving rememdies for pay discrimination, prohibiting employer retaliation, and facilitating class action suits in equal pay claims, among other strategies.
Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have passed laws to explicitly grant pregnant employees the right to reasonable accommodations at work. Ten of these laws have been passed since 2013, all with bipartisan support, and in the majority of cases with unanimous or near-unanimous support. Although the details of the laws vary from state to state, they share a core principle: a pregnant worker with a medical need for accommodation should not be pushed out of work when she can be reasonably accommodated without imposing an undue hardship on the employer. These laws affirm that no one should be forced to choose between the health of her pregnancy and her paycheck.
The Schedules That Work Act will ensure that workers have a voice in their work schedules, the predictability and stability they need to meet the dual demands of work and family, and a fair shot at achieving economic security for themselves and their families.
According to its sponsors, the Pregnancy Discrimination Amendment Act, S. 1590, H.R. 2800, (“Amendment Act”) seeks to address a critical problem of pregnant workers being forced to choose between their jobs and their health when they have a medical need for temporary accommodations. The bill thus reflects the growing, bipartisan awareness of the need to strengthen legal protections for pregnant workers. Unfortunately, the Amendment Act raises more legal questions than it answers and, if enacted, could actually diminish the legal protections pregnant workers currently enjoy. By contrast, the bipartisan Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, S. 1512, H.R. 2654, would provide a clear, flexible rule ensuring reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers who need them.
Pregnant workers in physically demanding jobs are often terminated, forced to quit, or involuntarily placed on unpaid “medical” leave because they ask for simple, reasonable, and temporary accommodations during their pregnancy such as avoiding heavy lifting or a stool to sit on. Instead of honoring these requests, many employers jeopardize the health of women and their pregnancies by making pregnant workers choose between continuing to
work under unsafe conditions or losing their paycheck. This fact sheet details the actual numbers of pregnant workers in the workforce, a subset of which may require accommodations at some point during their pregnancies.
African American women who work full-time, year round are paid just 64 cents for every dollar a White, non-Hispanic male makes. This wage gap knows no bounds—African American women make less than white, non-Hispanic men even when you control for factors such as their education level, age, or occupation. This fact sheet explains it all.