House Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, introduced on Wednesday the “Paycheck Fairness Act,” a bill which has been set before Congress multiple times in the past 10 years, all without success, CNBC is reporting. The bill faces an uncertain future this time as well.
The act, which is the first major legislative package produced by the Democrat-controlled House, seeks to undo decades of unequal pay between men and women, as well as to improve upon gains made during the Kennedy and Obama administrations.
The Equal Pay Act Of 1963; The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Of 2009
Back in the 1960s, Congress amended the 1938 Fair Labor Standards act, which, among other things, created a federal minimum wage and the 40-hour work week. The bill did not, however, address the disparity between what men and women were paid.
The 1963 act was intended to make it a crime to pay men more than women, or vice-versa, simply on the basis of sex. Though lauded as a major legislative achievement at the time, and as a major step forward for the emerging Women’s Rights movement, the act didn’t go far enough.
Similarly, in 2009 the Obama administration signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, named for a woman who took all the way to the Supreme Court her case. The Act overturned a Supreme Court decision that limited the time period in which employees could file an equal pay lawsuit related to pay discrimination.
The New Act
The proposed bill would take things a few steps further to ensure that the 1963 Act has some teeth.
Wonderful to visit your Millennial Media Row yesterday, @RepMaxineWaters. You are a powerhouse voice for American families & working people. So grateful we have you leading @FSCDems in the new Congress! pic.twitter.com/R3LHF7zvxA— Nancy Pelosi (@SpeakerPelosi) January 30, 2019
The bill would, among other things, ban salary secrecy, increase penalties for employers who retaliate against workers who share wage information, and allow workers to sue for damages of pay discrimination. Further, the bill would provide training for employees to recognize gaps in their pay and to try to remedy their situations.
Though a considerable legislative achievement for the new Congress, the bill has been put before the legislature, in various forms, multiple times over the past two decades, every time doomed from the start. Since 2012 alone, House Republicans have shot down the bill four times.
This particular bill may pass the Democrat-controlled House, but it’s all but dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate. It also remains unclear if Donald Trump would sign it into law if it passed Congress.
Still, the bill’s co-sponsor, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, says that it’s necessary to close the pay gap between men and women.
“It is time that we pay people what they are worth and not how little they are desperate enough to accept.”