Equal Pay Day 2016: Lack of Progress Continues

Since I started this blog in December 2012, I have annually written about pay equity during April on Pay Equity Day (2013, 2014, and 2015).  That day is today. As in past years, Ni-Ta-Nee NOW, the local chapter of the National Organization for Women, will be distributing flyers educating the public about the economic inequality in women’s pay.  We’re letting people know that we continue to have a lack of progress in eliminating pay inequity.  Here’s the information we would like the public to know.

April 12, 2016

This date symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year according to the National Committee on Pay Equity.  FYI, this is 2 days less than 2015, 4 days more than 2014, 3 days less than in 2013 and 1 day less than in 2011 when Ni-Ta-Nee NOW started tracking this date! Tuesday, April 12, 2016 is the day on which women’s wages overall catch up with men’s wages from the previous year.  It is also the day when white women’s wages catch up with men’s wages.  But most women of color take much longer to achieve equity.

The Wage Gap

2016 Weekly Wage Gap

A Nationwide View of the Gap in Pay for Women by Gender and Ethnicity

The commonly used measure to determine the wage gap is the ratio of women’s to men’s median annual earnings for full-time, full-year workers. Based on these earnings, women as a whole earned just 81 percent of what men earned in 2015 (IWPR, 2016).  In the past ten years (2006 to 2015), the weekly gender wage gap narrowed by just 0.3 percentage points, compared with 6.0 percentage points in the previous ten years (1996 to 2005). At the current rate, it will be 2059 before women achieve wage parity. This lack of progress needs to be turned around and soon!

Nationally, Asian American women have the smallest wage gap, earning 95 percent of what the average white man earned in 2012. White women are next, earning approximately 81 percent of white men’s average income, African-American women (67 percent), and Hispanic women (62 percent) have the largest wage gaps as compared to white men (IWPR, 2016).

A woman who is just starting her career now will earn $430,480 less than her male counterpart over the course of a 40-year career (NWLC, 2016). Differences in the wage gap are due more than just the types of jobs men and women work.  Part of the problem is due to gendered, sex-segregated jobs where women are paid less (often at minimum wage levels & for jobs that require the same level of skills, knowledge & abilities) as well as to a lack of paid sick days, paid family leave, fair scheduling, and pay transparency protections in these female-dominated occupations (Center for American Progress, 2015).

Wage Gap in Pennsylvania

The wage gap is even worse in our state. When ranked among the other 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania’s wage gap placed it 27th (tied with IL, ME, WI, NE, & TX) among the states (AAUW, 2016). The median annual income for a woman working full-time, year round in Pennsylvania in 2015 was $39,905 compared to men’s $50,412 or 79% of what a man earns. This is a wage gap of 21% .

Centre County is part of Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District (CD).  Women in the 5th CD earn    $33,616 compared to the $44,578 that men earn or 75.4% of what a man earns. We rank 13 out of 18 in the state in terms of the wage gap.  This is a wage gap of 24.6%. Philadelphia’s 1st CD fairs better than the rest of the state with a gap of just 3.7% (AAUW, 2016).

A woman who is just starting her career now will earn $420,280 less than her male counterpart over the course of a 40-year career. For Asian-American women, it’s $394,760; for African-Americans, it’s $661,840; for Native American women, it’s $804,680; & for Hispanic women, it’s $918,120 (NWLC, 2016).

What Can You Or I Do About this Inequity?

If You are an Employer

If you are an employer, you can get help in examining pay practices by conducting an equal pay self-audit using the guidelines from the US Department of Labor (available at www.pay-equity.org/cando-audit.html).

If You Believe You Are Experiencing Wage-Based Discrimination

Tell your employer if you are being paid less than your male co-workers. Click here for some tips on negotiating for pay equity.

If there’s a union at your place of work, ask for their help.

If discrimination persists: There are three places to file complaints – at the federal level, at the state level, and at the local level.

At the Federal Level

You can file under federal law with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Go to this link and follow the instructions.

At the State Level

You can find your state’s anti-discrimination agency website and contact information in a pdf file created by Legal Momentum starting on page 28. Most of the agencies have a website address that you can copy and paste into your browser. All of the agencies have a phone number that you can call for assistance.

If you live in Pennsylvania, you can file a complaint with the PA Human Relations Commission in Harrisburg. Contact information is available by region.  Just go to their website and look for your county’s name.  The phone number and address for your regional office is listed directly above the names of the counties served by each office.

You should also check to see if your local county, city, or community has an ordinance providing similar protections for wage-based discrimination. You can also file under federal law with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

At the Local Level

There are a few communities throughout the country that have created local ordinances that include the state-based anti-discrimination protections and have also expanded coverage to other areas (such as protections based on sexual orientation, family status, and/or family responsibilities across the life-span). If so, you can more conveniently file a wage-based complaint at the local level. Check with your state’s anti-discrimination agency to see if there is a local ordinance in your community.

In Pennsylvania, there are about 30 communities with such an ordinance. Your regional office of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission can give you this information, along with whom to contact. Check with your state’s anti-discrimination office if you live in another state to determine if your state allows such local ordinances and if such an ordinance exists in your community.

You Can Also Advocate for Changes in the Law

There are bills before Congress and in state legislatures that deal with some of the issues affecting wage inequity.  If you want to advocate at the federal level, you can find your US Representative and your US Senators’ contact information at https://www.congress.gov/members.  To find the contact information for your state legislators, go to http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/ and fill in your mailing address and hit the “locate” button; your legislators’ picture, addresses, and phone and fax numbers can be found when you click on her/his name .  It some cases, this website will also provide a list of bills your legislator has sponsored so that you can see if one or more of them support pay equity.

Here are the issues you should consider advocating for.  Since I live in Pennsylvania, I’m listing both Federal and Pennsylvania-specific bills.  For bills specific to your state, check out the National Conference of State Legislatures website to find and go to your state’s website.  You will then be able to search for bill on pay equity, paycheck fairness, minimum wage, sick leave, etc. to see if there is a bill or law in your state addressing these issues. If not, then contact your legislators/public officials and ask them to sponsor such bills.

  • Raise both the regular and the minimum wages. At the federal level, there are several bills addressing this issue.  They include HR 4508 —The Fair Wage Act , HR 2150 and S 1150 — Raise the Wage Act, and HR 3164 & S 1832 —Pay Workers a Living Wage Act.
  • Pass paid sick leave legislation. At the federal level, check out HR 932 and S 497 — the Paid Sick Leave Act.
    • In Pennsylvania, check out  HB 624 — the  Pennsylvania aid Sick Leave Act and SB 221 — the Employee Paid Sick Leave Act.
    • In some states, this type of legislation can be done at the municipal level.  Currently four states (Connecticut in 2011, California in 2013, Massachusetts in 2014, and Oregon in 2015) and the District of Columbia (2008) as well as 18 cities and communities have implemented paid sick leave.  These 18 cities (with year of passage) are:
      • California: San Francisco (2006), Oakland (2014), and Emeryville (2015)
      • Maryland: Montgomery County (2015)
      • New Jersey: Jersey City (2013), Newark, Passaic, Paterson, East Orange, Irvington, Montclair, Trenton (all in 2014), and Bloomfield (2015)
      • New York: New York City (2013)
      • Oregon: Portland (2013)
      • Pennsylvania: Philadelphia (2015)
      • Washington: Seattle (2011) and Tacoma (2015)
  • Create laws that make payment of wages fairer by eliminating pay secrecy rules & pay discrimination. Types of paycheck fairness rules include limiting occupational requirements to bona fide occupational factors like education, skills, and experience, prohibiting employer retaliation against employees who discuss their salaries, and denies employers the ability to require employees to sign a contract or waiver prohibiting them from disclosing information about the employee’s wages. The federal bills that focus on this issue are HR 1619 and S 862, both of which are entitled the Paycheck Fairness Act. The National Women’s Law Center has several good articles on paycheck fairness, including why women need more wage protections and information on how the Paycheck Fairness Act strengthens the Equal Pay Act.

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