Given the fact that the anniversary of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was yesterday, it seems only fitting that this past week’s episode of NBC’s Parks & Recreation focused on gender equality in the workplace.
For those unfamiliar with the show, Parks & Recreation (or Parks & Rec, as it is known lovingly among its fan base) is about Leslie Knope, a mid-level government employee in a small town in Indiana. She is dedicated to her job and the town she grew up in, and many feminists and TV fans have lauded the show as an example of a great feminist character. And for good reason – Leslie is dedicated, passionate, and very human (she has an absolutely adorable relationship with her fiancée, Ben, and a deep love of waffles and whipped cream that I can 100% relate to). Leslie has grown from simply a government employee to a City Council Member, and she aspires to climb the ranks all the way to President. Plus, the show is just absolutely hilarious.
This week, the episode opened with the ladies of the Pawnee, Indiana Parks Department in a meeting with the first female city councilmember. She lamented about the fact that her male counterparts used to keep a calendar of her menstrual cycles – something that sounds beefed up for the sake of comedy, but actually hits closer to hope than you might think: In October, CNN posted (and quickly took down) a story saying that hormones can make female voters vote more liberally because it makes them “feel sexier.” Read more »
Rocket ships are popular with the space kids who live at my house. Stomp rockets. Model rockets. Rockets made from empty paper towel rolls and popsicle sticks. No matter what type of rocket, there is always a countdown and there is always a blast off.
Today is the anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. What better time could there be to get moving on a state-of-the-art plan to rocket to fair pay? Our progress in narrowing the wage gap ground to a halt ten years ago, after two decades of steady improvement. If you're sick and tired of hearing that the typical woman is still paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to the typical man, do the 5-4-3-2-1 countdown with me of what it would take to finally close the wage gap:
5. Ensure that women have the same opportunities and encouragement as men to train for well-paying jobs, many of which are in fields in which women are currently underrepresented. Read more »
President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
Four years ago today, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — giving more women the opportunity to challenge pay discrimination in the workplace. That day was incredibly gratifying for me personally, since it meant that no other woman or man would suffer the injustice of learning that they had been paid unfairly for years, and then being told it was simply too late to do anything about it.
Ensuring that women have the tools they need to address pay discrimination is just as important now as it was then. In fact, the wage gap between men and women hasn’t budged in the last ten years, with women still earning 77 cents on average for every dollar earned by the typical man, and that number is worse for women of color. Even a college degree fails to close the gap — a recent AAUW report showed that the wage gap is present at college graduation with women making, on average, 82% of what a man makes.
To commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Fair Pay Act, here are four facts impacting the fight for equal pay for equal work today:
Four: As I said at the Democratic National Convention [video] in September, what a difference four years make! On January 29, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — the first law passed during his presidency. The law ensures that everyone who experiences pay discrimination gets their day in court by restarting the time limit to file a claim with each discriminatory paycheck. Read more »
Four years ago today President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law, restoring the law that existed for decades in virtually every region of the country prior to the 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. The importance of the Ledbetter Act cannot be overstated – in the last 4 years, workers have once again been able to challenge unfair pay in court and pay discrimination claims around the country have been restored.
But even four years ago at the signing of the bill that bears her name, Lilly Ledbetter said the following: “With this bill in place, we now can move forward to where we all hope to be – improving the law, not just restoring it.” Those words are especially true today. The most recent data shows that woman working full time, year round are paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. This is a statistic that is unchanged from not only four years ago, but this gap has remained the same for a decade. For women of color, it’s much worse, with the typical African-American woman paid 64 cents and the typical Latina woman paid 55 cents for every dollar paid to a white, non-Hispanic man. A gap in wages occurs at all education levels, after work experience is taken into account, and it gets worse as women’s careers progress.
If we pair these disturbing statistics with the severe limits to existing laws and policies it is even grimmer. Workers are frequently left in the dark about wage disparities, a problem that is exacerbated by employers that penalize their employees for revealing or discussing wages.In addition, even when women somehow muster enough information to prove discrimination, the remedies are extremely narrow. This means that there are too few incentives for employers to voluntarily comply with the law, and engaging in pay discrimination can be simply an unfortunate “cost” of doing business. Read more »
One year ago, President Obama announced new regulations proposed by the Department of Labor (DOL) that would grant minimum wage and overtime pay to home care workers, a workforce that has been unfairly denied these basic protections for decades. In his remarks last December, he described a day he spent with Pauline Beck, a home care worker from Oakland, California:
“When we met, she was getting up every day at 5:00 a.m. to go to work taking care of an 86-year-old amputee named ‘Mr. John.’ And each day, she’d dress Mr. John and help him into his wheelchair. She’d make him breakfast. She’d scrub his floors. She’d clean his bathroom. She was his connection to the outside world. And when the workday was done, she would go home to take care of a grandnephew and two foster children who didn’t have families of their own. Heroic work, and hard work. That’s what Pauline was all about.”
Pauline’s story is illustrative. Like Pauline, most home care workers are women. They take on the vitally important work of caring for our neighbors and family members who need help to stay in their homes – and like Pauline, many home care workers also have their own families to support. But for decades, their difficult and demanding jobs have come without the basic protections of the federal minimum wage and overtime laws. Read more »
Scientists recently did an experiment regarding equal pay with Capuchin monkeys, and the results were interesting - and obvious. The Capuchin who had been underpaid with a piece of cucumber instead of with a grape for performing exactly the same task repeatedly threw it at the experimenter in protest.
Go, Capuchin monkeys!
As an article by Kasey Edwards in Daily Life notes, the monkey’s demand for equal pay for equal work appeared to be a natural instinct, but it is difficult for women to negotiate their wages when they don’t know if they are being paid less for the same work.
Unlike grapes and cucumbers distributed in clear plastic containers in full view of the monkeys, paychecks for humans come in sealed envelopes, and most employers either explicitly prohibit discussions of pay or discourage employees from disclosing wages to their coworkers. It’s difficult to challenge unfair pay practices when a female worker has no idea what her male coworker sitting across the hall is making. Read more »
On average, women make less than men make. We know this: it is well-documented; there are laws in place to prevent it. You can find differences among states here and helpful FAQs here.
Opponents of pay fairness legislation try to explain away the wage gap; they claim it is a matter of individual choice. Women work fewer hours, take time off for children, and “prefer” certain fields. But did you know that recent college graduates – women who are young, relatively inexperienced, often without children – face pay discrimination just like older women? From the beginning of their careers, women earn less than men. Even with average higher GPAs, women still make less than men. According to the report, women recent graduates, on average, make only $35,296 to men’s $42,918 (82% of men’s wages). Read more »
In what some may see as a modern version of “David and Goliath,” the women of Wal-Mart have fought for over a decade to challenge the discriminatory pay and promotion practices of the mega-retailer, which is located in all 50 states and Puerto Rico and is the largest private employer in the U.S. Last year, adding insult to alleged injury, the Supreme Court denied class certification in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, 131 S. Ct. 2541 (2011) – finding that the plaintiffs failed to satisfy the “commonality” requirement for class actions when they failed to provide proof that “[Wal-Mart] operate[d] under a general policy of discrimination.” The decision dealt a strong blow to those who would seek to become modern-day “Davids” – leading NWLC’s Co-President, Marcia Greenberger, to issue the following statement:
"Today’s ruling undermines the very purposes of the class action mechanism and is tantamount to closing the courthouse door on millions of women who cannot vindicate their rights one person at a time. The women of Wal-Mart — and women everywhere — will now face a far steeper road to challenge and correct pay and other forms of discrimination in the workplace."
The plaintiffs subsequently limited the size of their class by region – new class actions were filed in California and Texas, and complaints were filed with the EEOC in 48 states – and cut out women who held certain positions in response to the Supreme Court decision. Read more »
Lilly Ledbetter, the tireless advocate for equal pay, knows firsthand how wage discrimination affects women and their families. Speaking at the Democratic National Convention last week, she reminded the country of her wage discrimination story. Lilly Ledbetter worked for Goodyear for nearly 20 years before discovering that she’d been paid unfairly, losing out on thousands of dollars over the course of her career there. After securing a jury verdict in her favor, in 2007 the Supreme Court determined that she would never receive the lost wages for all those years of discrimination because she didn’t complain about being paid unfairly in her first six months on the job. Less than two years later her namesake bill was passed, restoring the law to ensure that future workers could challenge their unfair pay. Under the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, the time period for challenging pay discrimination begins with the most recent paycheck that reflects unequal wages.
The data released today show that the typical woman is still paid 77 percent of a man’s wages. And when race and sex are considered together, the gap in earnings for women of color are especially stark: African American women make only 64 percent and Hispanic women make 55 percent when compared to white men. This disappointing news is the sort that should spark policymakers to move forward quickly with additional improvements to the fair pay laws. Yet, opponents of fair pay laws are continuing to attack even the Ledbetter Act. In a recent National Review online piece Carrie Lukas shockingly suggests that women are now worse off because of the Ledbetter Act. Never mind that the Ledbetter Act was passed with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. And never mind that the cases that have been restored since that Act was passed show that the Ledbetter Act had a critical impact. So, as we are faced with the news of a decade of no progress on the wage gap, what’s quite clear is that we cannot waste time revisiting the merits of the bipartisan Ledbetter Act. Below are just a few of the reasons that it is time to move forward on the next step in achieving fair pay – the Paycheck Fairness Act.
The Ledbetter Act restored longstanding law
The rule outlined in the Ledbetter Act, that as long as employees receive discriminatory paychecks they can continue to challenge wage discrimination, restores prior law to that applied by the EEOC and nine of the twelve federal courts of appeals before the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear. In other words, it put the law back to what everyone thought it was in 2007. With today’s news that the 23 cent wage gap has remained the same over the last decade, there is no doubt that more is required to overcome 10 years of stagnation. And we have yet to move forward with the policies that will actually update the outdated fair pay laws. Read more »
We all want girls to grow up believing they can be whatever they want to be. Girls’ empowerment slogans have found their way into pop songs, onto t-shirts and into girls’ hearts. Girls rock! Girls rule! Girl power!
But there’s some data out today that makes all that seem like magical thinking: the new wage gap numbers.
Equality minus 23%. Don’t try putting that on a t-shirt.
The wage gap for women has barely budged in over a decade, according to new data released today. The typical woman working full time, year round is paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to the typical man. This is unchanged from 2002, ten years ago. For women of color, it’s much worse, with the typical African-American woman paid 64 cents and the typical Latina woman paid 55 cents for every dollar paid to a white, non-Hispanic man.