What is Equal Pay Day and Why Should I Care?

For the last three years, my local NOW chapter—Ni-Ta-Nee NOW—has organized community education events surrounding Equal Pay Day and paycheck fairness.

A frequent question we have is, “What’s Equal Pay Day and why should I care?”  To help answer that question, we have done op-eds and interviews with the local press (See here and here).  We also create a flyer that we update each year.  As President of Pennsylvania NOW, I wrote another blog on this issue in 2011. And elsewhere on my blog site, I have commented on the need for fairness in pay.

Today, we will once again be distributing Equal Pay Day flyers in front of the gates of The Pennsylvania State University over the dinner hour today.

Why today? Because Equal Pay Day moves from year to year. For 2013, that day is April 9.

The following is a web-based version of this flyer.  The hard-copy version focuses on Pennsylvania.  I have kept that information here; I’ve also added commentary and links for information and contacts in other states.

TUESDAY APRIL 9TH 2013

EQUAL PAY DAY

IT’S THE DAY ON WHICH WOMEN’S WAGES CATCH UP WITH MEN’S WAGES FROM THE PREVIOUS YEAR.

Equal Pay Day symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work full-time, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year.  In 2013, it took 2 days MORE than in 2011 and 8 days LESS than in 2012 for a woman to earn as much as a man earned in the entire year.

THE WAGE GAP

National Perspective

The wage gap shows that women, particularly women of color are paid significantly less than white men.

The Wage Gap: Lack of Equal Pay

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 earned just 82% of what men earned (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013).

Nationally, Asian American women have the smallest wage gap, earning 88% of what the average white man earned in 2012. White women are next, earning approximately 81% of white men’s average income. African-American women (68%) and Hispanic women (59%) have the largest wage gaps compared to white men (Institute for Women’s Policy Research, March 2013).

A typical woman earns $431,000 less in pay over 40 years due to this wage gap. (Center for American Progress, 2012)

At the current rate of progress, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research estimates that it will be 2057 before women’s wages reach parity and Equal Pay Day will finally be on December 31 rather than somewhere in April of the following year!

Pennsylvania Perspective

The wage gap is just as bad, if not worse, in our state. When ranked among the other 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, Pennsylvania’s wage gap placed it 34th (Women’s Law Center calculation based on American Community Survey Briefs, April 2013).  You can look up your state’s pay equity ranking at this site as well if you don’t live in Pennsylvania.

The median annual income for a woman working full-time, year round in Pennsylvania in 2011 was $37,089, compared to men’s $47,956. This is a wage gap of 77% (Women’s Law Center calculation based on American Community Survey Briefs, April 2013). A typical woman in PA earns $459,000 less in pay over 40 years due to this wage gap. This gap rises to $722,000 for women who have earned college degrees. (Center for American Progress, 2010)

WHAT CAN I DO??

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, 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 Pennsylvania 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.

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).

You should therefore check to see if your local county, city, or community has an ordinance providing similar protections for wage-based discrimination. If so, you can more conveniently file a wage-based complaint at the local level.  Check with your state’s anti-discrimination agency (see info above under “At the State Level”) 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.

One of these 30 communities in Pennsylvania is State College, PA, where the main campus of The Pennsylvania State University is located. Their ordinance covers wage-based discrimination based on sex as well as color (race), religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial status, marital status, age, mental or physical disability, use of guide or support animals and/or mechanical aids.  If you work within the State College, PA borough, you can file a complaint with them under their Employment Anti-Discrimination Ordinance at 814.234.7110 (Side note: I was one of the people instrumental in crafting this ordinance).

Supporting and Advocating for Paycheck Fairness

Ask your Congressional representatives to co-sponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act – HR 377 in the US House of Representatives and S 84 in the US Senate).  The Paycheck Fairness Act updates and strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 1963. It gives women the tools they need to challenge the wage gap itself.

You can find out where your representatives stand on the Paycheck Fairness Act by going to http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php. In the search box in the middle of the page, type in “Paycheck Fairness Act” and click search.  On the next page, two bills will show up—SR 84 and HR 377.  This page provides several links to information about both of these bills—text, bill history, co-sponsors, etc. If you click on “cosponsors” for each bill, you can determine if your representatives are publicly supporting the bill or not. If they are a sponsor, thank them and then ask them to call for a hearing on vote on the bill.  If they are not, ask them to sign on.

And For More Information

Visit http://www.pay-equity.org – the website created by the National Committee on Pay Equity (NCPE).  NCPE is a coalition of women’s and civil rights organizations; labor unions; religious, professional, legal, and educational associations, commissions on women, state and local pay equity coalitions and individuals.”  They are dedicated to ending wage-based discrimination and achieving pay equity. If you like what they are doing, you can join and become a member.

This blog today by Erin Matson focuses, like my blog today, on pay equity and the Paycheck Fairness Act.  These are just some of the several issues we are both passionate about. In addition to providing another perspective on paycheck fairness, she also goes into some detail about introducing yourself to and talking to members of Congress. As this is part of my recommendations in the blog I just wrote and posted, I decided to reblog her so that you have more information to help successfully advocate for pay equity and civil rights for all.

Erin Matson

This is the first in what will be a regular series, Your Activism Guide, designed to make feminist activism more accessible and help you take the power you deserve. 

Purpose: Introduce yourself to your members of Congress.

Process: Set up meetings now to drop by local offices (even if you don’t have a specific request, even if the legislator tends to vote against your interests).

Payoff: Existing relationships can bring the most unexpected of benefits.

A few days ago, the American Association of University Women and National Women’s Law Center hosted a Tweet Chat to commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which reversed a Supreme Court decision that had effectively gutted the ability to sue for wage discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Joining the conversation to answer questions was Lilly Ledbetter herself.

This is a topic that gets me all hot…

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Paycheck Fairness Act and the ERA

Yesterday, a reporter from the local newspaper contacted me regarding a press conference that was held by Senator Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA). During that press conference, Senator Casey discussed a report highlighting the fact that women in Pennsylvania earn 18.3 percent less than their male peers.

This earning differential is known as the Pay or Wage Gap.  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.  Nationally, in 2011, women earned just 77 percent of what men earned.  That’s a national wage gap of 23 percent.  Although Pennsylvania appears to be doing better than the nation on pay equity, we are still being short-changed.

For women of color, the wage gap is even worse.  According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, Asian American women have the smallest wage gap, earning 91 percent of what the average white man earned in 2010. White women are next, earning approximately 81 percent of white men’s average income. African-American women (70 percent) and Hispanic women (60 percent) have the largest wage gaps as compared to white men.

So why did Jessica VanderKolk call me for a comment about Senator Casey’s press conference? The message she left on the phone was that she was interested in what I thought of Casey’s stance on pay inequity, partly as a follow-up to an article she did on this issue in May 2012, where I was also quoted.  She wanted to know why I thought there had been almost no change in wage gap in the last year and what I thought needed to happen in order to eliminate this problem.

My first statement to her was that pay inequity is unfair and unjust.  She quoted me in the news article this morning,

“It takes just as much to feed a woman’s family as a man’s family and put a roof over your head,” Tosti-Vasey said. “Gender should have no basis [in determining] your salary.”

We then went on to discuss the main point of Senator Casey’s press conference: his support and co-sponsorship of the Paycheck Fairness Act.  This bill was introduced again for the fourth time on January 23, 2013 (Casey signed on as a co-sponsor on January 30, 2013 right after announcing his support of S.R. 84).

The Paycheck Fairness Act updates and strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 1963. It gives women the tools they need to challenge the wage gap itself.  According to the ACLU, both S.R. 84 and H.R. 377 include the following remedies and programs to help remove pay inequity:

  • Require employers to demonstrate that wage differentials between men and women holding the same position and doing the same work stem from factors other than sex.
  • Prohibit retaliation against workers who inquire about their employers’ wage practices or disclose their own wages.
  • Permit reasonable comparisons between employees within clearly defined geographical areas to determine fair wages.
  • Strengthen penalties for equal pay violations. The bill’s measured approach levels the playing field by ensuring that women can obtain the same remedies as those subject to discrimination on the basis of race or national origin.
  • Encourage proactive enforcement of equal pay laws by re-instating the collection of wage-related data and providing for training for the workers who enforce our equal pay laws.
  • Modernize the Equal Pay Act to make it more in line with the class action procedures available under Title VII. It would not extend class action protections beyond what is available under other anti-discrimination laws.
  • provide important safeguards for businesses, including:
    • providing an exemption for small businesses;
    • instituting a six months waiting period from the time of enactment and requiring the Department of Labor to assist small businesses with compliance; and
    • Recognizing employers for excellence in their pay practices and strengthening federal outreach and assistance to all businesses to help improve equal pay practices.

Yet if people in general understand that paying someone less for doing the same job is unfair, why is this bill now in its fourth iteration? I was asked this question by Jessica Vandervolk during our phone call.  She paraphrased my comment, stating that Senator Casey and I agree on this issue:

[Tosti-Vasey] said the lack of action so far may have to do with the conservative climate, and Casey added that he hopes the 2012 election makes a difference.

The paraphrase is accurate, but somewhat incomplete.  I said that I believed that the lack of passage was mostly due to conservative legislators.  I continued by stating that this is particularly true in the US House of Representatives but also occurs among conservatives in the US Senate.  Why?  Just follow the campaign money.  These legislators listen to lobbyists and business honchos who want full control over how much they pay others. If employers can get away with paying less and discriminating against one segment of their workforce, then they will lobby and work to defeat any effort to change this scenario.  When elected officials’ campaign war-chests depend upon funds from uncaring, well-financed business owners and lobbyists, they vote no.

So I agree with Casey.  We have a slightly more caring House and Senate as a result of the November election and maybe we can get the Paycheck Fairness Act to become law during this session of Congress.  As constituents, let all of your legislators–both Senators and your US Representative—know that you want them to cosponsor (if they are not already a sponsor) and vote for the Paycheck Fairness Act as soon as possible.

You can find out where your representatives stand on the Paycheck Fairness Act by going to http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php. In the search box in the middle of the page, type in “Paycheck Fairness Act” and click search.  On the next page, 2 bills will show up—SR 84 and HR 377.  If you then click on “cosponsors” for each bill, you can determine if your representatives are publicly supporting the bill or not.

Meanwhile this might never have come up as an issue to fight in Congress OVER and OVER and OVER again if the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) had been ratified by 38 states and was now part of the US Constitution.  I recently blogged about why having an ERA is important, so check that out as well.  Once you have done that, go to the White House petition site and tell President Obama that you want him to work with Congress to finally get the ERA ratified.

The Washington State Economic Opportunity Institute is absolutely correct. The United States of America needs to join much of the rest of the world and create paid family leave for all employees – both men and women. The current, unpaid family and medical leave guaranteed under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act for employees who work essentially full-time for a minimum of one year for companies with 50 or more employees is untenable.

The current system in the US allows for time off from work when you have a family medical emergency or the birth or adoption of a child. BUT it’s unpaid. For full-time employees only. And only if you work for a large-size company.

For the majority of working people, this is either unworkable (you live pay-check to paycheck and have no backup income if you take unpaid leave) and or is unavailable.

We need to have full income protection for all employees, not just the 11 percent of private sector workers and the 17 percent of public sector workers in the US who do get paid leave.

Let your Congressional delegation know that you want paid medical leave legislation introduced and enacted into law. This law should provide at least partial income replacement when you need time off from work to take care of a child, spouse, or other family member throughout the lifespan.

Washington Policy Watch

By Lisa Belkin, from the Huffington Post

maternity and paternity leaveAs of this week, a new father in Finland may take 54 days of paid leave to spend with his child. In Australia, a similar law gives new Dads two weeks off to bond.

These are but the two newest countries to provide paternity leave, with pay. All over the world — in places as diverse as Sweden (480 days; yes you read that right), Germany (365), Italy (90), Kenya (14), Switzerland (3) and Indonesia (2) — legislators have realized that time with a child, without worry over a lost paycheck, is a right, not a frill.

And in the US?

You know the answer to that.

As Zach Rosenberg has been highlighting on 8BitDad, companies aren’t required to offer paternity leave here. That is hardly surprising because while other countries are expanding their policies to include Dads, we are essentially the…

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