Equal Pay Day 2014: Another Year of Inequity

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.  We have focused on this issue because of the continuing inequity in women’s wages as compared to the male coworkers.

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 last year, I commented on Equal Pay Day 2013 as well as the need for fairness in pay.

Like last year, my local NOW chapter will once again be distributing Equal Pay Day flyers in front of the gates of The Pennsylvania State University over the dinner hour.

Why today? Because Equal Pay Day moves from year to year. For 2014, that day is April 8.

The following is a web-based version of this flyer updated from 2013 to reflect today’s stats and information. The hard-copy version focuses on Pennsylvania. I have kept that information here and added additional commentary and links for information and contacts in other states.

TUESDAY APRIL 8, 2014 is EQUAL PAY DAY

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

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 across the US earned just 77% of what men earned (AAUW, 2014).

Equal Pay Day symbolizes how far into the year a woman must work, on average, to earn as much as a man earned the previous year. In 2014, it took 1 day LESS than in 2013, 9 days LESS than in 2012, and 2 day MORE than in 2011 for a woman to earn as much as a man earned in the entire year. 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!

 THE WAGE GAP

The Wage Gap - Lack of Equal Pay

The Wage Gap – Lack of Equal Pay

Nationally, Asian American women have the smallest wage gap, earning 87 percent of what the average white man earned in 2012. White women are next, earning approximately 78 percent of white men’s average income. Hawaiian and Asian Pacific women (65 percent), African-American women (64 percent), Native American and Alaskan Native women (60 percent), and Hispanic women (53 percent) have the largest wage gaps as compared to white men (AAUW, 2014). A typical woman earns $431,000 less in pay over 40 years due to this wage gap. (Center for American Progress, 2012)

THE WAGE GAP IN PENNSYLVANIA

The wage gap is even worse, in Pennsylvania. When ranked among the other 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania’s wage gap placed the state at 40out of 51 states. The median annual income for a woman working full-time, year round in Pennsylvania in 2012 was $37,414, compared to men’s $49,330 or 76% of what a man earns. This is a wage gap of 24%.

Of the 50 largest metropolitan areas in the nation, only Seattle ranks worse than Pittsburgh (with a gap of 27%); Philadelphia fairs better than the state with a gap of just 20%. 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 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.

As I just stated, there are about 30 communities in Pennsylvania that have such a local ordinance. One of the most progressive and expansive ordinances is in State College, PA, home of the main campus of The Pennsylvania State University. 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. Four of these categories – sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial status and family responsibilities across the lifespan, and marital status—are not covered under state law. State College is the only locality in Pennsylvania (and one of only a handful nationwide) that protects you in employment if you have family responsibilities for adult members of your family whether or not they live in the home with you. If you work within the State College, PA borough, you can file a complaint with the State College Borough under their Employment Anti-Discrimination Ordinance at 814.234.7110814.234.7110 (Side note: I was one of the people instrumental in crafting this ordinance).

If You Want to Support and Advocate for Pay Equity

Both the federal and many state legislatures—including New York and Pennsylvania—are attempting to address the issue of pay equity. I previously summarized what happened in New York with its Women’s Equality Act. The following summarizes the current status of the bills currently moving through Congress and the Pennsylvania General Assembly.

The Federal Paycheck Fairness Act

Ask your Congressional representatives to co-sponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act – HR 377 in the US House of Representatives and both S 84 and S 2199 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. HR 377 was introduced in January 2013 and currently has 207 cosponsors; S 84 was introduced in 2013 and has 55 cosponsors; and S 2199 was introduced on 5 days ago and cosponsors are being sought by Senator Barbara Mikulski.

These bills have several different but related requirements. These include:

  • limiting wage differentials to bona fide work-related factors such as education, training, or experience;
  • prohibiting employer retaliation against employees who discuss their wages with each other or who supports and cooperates with a wage discrimination investigation;
  • authorizing the US Secretary of Labor to provide wage negotiation training grants for women and girls;
  • requiring employer-level data collection wages broken down by sex, race, and national origin; and
  • directing the Secretary of Labor and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to provide technical assistance to small businesses so that they can comply with this paycheck fairness law.

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, three bills will show up—SR 84, S 2199, 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. 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.

Pennsylvania’s Workplace Opportunity Act

This bill is a smaller version of the federal Paycheck Fairness Act. Current Pennsylvania law prohibits sex-based wage discrimination between men and women but it suffers from several deficiencies that continue to allow for sex-based wage discrimination. There are two bills in the Pennsylvania General Assembly – HB 1890 and SB 1212. This two bills help to close these loopholes in current state law. Like the federal bill, the Workplace Opportunity Act requires equal pay for equal work. Employers would have to show that that the wage differential is legal if and only if they can demonstrate that the wage differences:

  •  Are not based upon or derived from a sex-based difference in compensation;
  • Are job-related with respect to the position in question, and
  • Are consistent with business necessity.

And again like the Federal bills, retaliation against employees who discuss their wages with each other or who support and cooperate with a wage discrimination investigation would be prohibited

HB 1890 has 54 cosponsors. It was introduced on January 2, 2014 and sent to the House Labor and Industry Committee. Yesterday the prime sponsors of the House bill – Representatives Erin Molchany and Brian Sims—along with Representative Frankel and several of their colleagues held a press conference on this bill. Here’s three short videos from that media event.

During that conference (but not stated in these videos), they announced  that they have introduced a Resolution Petition to Discharge Committee from Further Consideration of this Bill. This is being done because the ranking committee chair is refusing to hold hearings or hold a vote on this bill. Such a resolution is relatively rare, but is used when legislators believe that there is support for the bill by the members of the legislature despite a committee chair’s refusal to consider the bill.

SB 1212 has 18 cosponsors. It was introduces on February 4, 2014. It is currently sitting in the Senate Labor and Industry. Like the HB 1890, it has had no movement in committee. But like most bills, it has not had a “Resolution to Discharge” petition as of today.

If you live in Pennsylvania, you can contact your PA representative and senator regarding pay equity. So, please take time to contact your legislator.  Here’s where to find your legislator’s contact info. And then tell them to bring both of these bills to the floor for a vote.

Finally…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.

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…

View original post 1,246 more words

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.

Why We are Pushing for Ratification of the ERA (the Equal Rights Amendment)

Today at noon, President Barack Obama was sworn into office in a private ceremony.  Tomorrow, he will be publicly sworn in for and give his second-term Inaugural speech on the western steps of the US Capitol. He won his second term much to the efforts and votes of women and people of color.

We have come a long way since the 14th Amendment was ratified, ending slavery and adding people of color to full protections under our US Constitution.  Yet after all this time, the women who helped put President Obama into office for his second term do not yet have that same level of protection.

Women worked to end slavery and put men of color on the same constitutional footing as white, land-owning men. It’s now our turn.

I have been working with an amazing online group of women and men dedicated to equality for all. Our current effort is to gain 25,000 signatures on a White House ERA petition by February 10, 2012.  There are now three weeks left before this deadline is reached; so far, we have gathered over one quarter of the necessary signatures required.  When we reach the 25,000 signatures, President Obama’s administration has agreed to respond to our request to

Vigorously support women’s rights by fully engaging in efforts to ratify the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

Many people have asked, “Why this amendment is needed,” or “Isn’t it already part of the US Constitution?”  The bottom-line question being asked, “Why should I sign this in the first place?”

One of my colleagues has put together a well-written, cogent argument to answer these questions and I asked her to submit a guest blog.

Marti J. Sladek graciously agreed.  Ms. Sladek is an attorney in Chicago. She owns “Speaking Up & Speaking Out” through which she speaks, writes and advocates on women’s issues, work, the law and public policy. You can find her on Twitter, Facebook and Linked In. Here’s what she has to say…

Yes, the Equal Rights Amendment is back. No, it is not already the law of the land, although 3/4 of Americans believe it is. A new generation of feminist leaders has joined and breathed new life into the fight to put equality and equal protection for women and girls into the US Constitution. The first version, written in suffragette days and resurrected by the 70s “women’s libbers’, was passed by 2/3 of Congress then fell three states short of the necessary 3/4 for ratification. That is why you see references to the “three-state strategy” in efforts to resurrect the Amendment.

There was very little activity surrounding the effort on this amendment for more than three decades. This raises questions about whether, even if three more states vote for it, the ratification would be valid, because the legislation that began it did not address whether there was a deadline; some say that after such a long dormancy, the issue was DOA. Others, including some formal legal opinions, say if no deadline was part of the law, then the amendment still lives. Note: if you want to refresh your knowledge on how the Constitution gets modified, read Article V.

One way or the other, we have to get it done. Justice Scalia himself underscored the need when he told a legal publication in the fall of 2011 that the 14th Amendment does not protect women as its intent was only racial equality.

Did you know that “gender” was inserted into some civil rights bills in the 60s as a protected class for discrimination purposes primarily in a failed effort to defeat civil rights legislation? So some of the protections we women have are somewhat accidental!

Lately, we have seen serious attacks on gains women have made through legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964–Title VII, employment discrimination; Title IX, discrimination in education at all levels; Title X, gender equity in health care, including reproductive rights–and even laws governing equal pay. Wisconsin rescinded their state Equal Pay Act last year. As we saw during the 2012 campaign season, efforts to limit or gut these and other civil rights laws such as the Voting Rights Act are underway at the state and federal level.

Courts have further eroded the impact of these laws. The Congress is less likely to overturn negative decisions from the Supreme Court than in even the recent past. Some GOP members who used to sponsor ERA have withdrawn support for fear of the Tea Party. New state legislatures could even try to rescind previous ratification of ERA! “Personhood” for embryos and eggs–but of course, not sperm–as well as restrictions on plain vanilla birth control, redefining rape, forced vaginal probes…the list goes on.

The arguments against ERA in the 1970s were speculative then and have been proven silly over the last thirty years. The horror of unisex washrooms? Give me a break: they exist all over the world, both public and in all our homes. Drafting women? No more military draft, and women are serving, yes, even in combat, albeit unofficially. The list goes on. And some bugaboos have been superseded by discrimination cases and the economic reality of women working outside the home. Plus the states that do have equal protection for females in their own constitutions are doing fine, thank you. It will be interesting, entertaining and angering to watch opponents claim, oh so wrongly, that we simply don’t need it.

Why do we need Equal Rights Amendment? Because, as we have seen, state and federal laws can be changed relatively easily. Because the courts do not give as much consideration to gender as they do to race, which is specifically mentioned in the (amended) constitution. When a government body has a policy that tends to treat one race differently than another, there is a high level of scrutiny: they have to have a truly compelling reason to get away with that kind of discrimination, along the lines of legal analysis for violating freedom of speech. Gender only gets “intermediate” scrutiny. Just a pretty good reason for treating women differently suffices. ERA could well change that.

Likewise, that kind of “logic” is reflected in analysis of issues such as sexual harassment, civil cases that generally involve private employers, landlords, etc. When a person is singled out because of race, called names, etc. the cases reflect the presumption that such conduct was unwanted and is inherently offensive (the “N” word for example). In sexual harassment, the victim must meet an initial of burden of proof that the inappropriate behavior (the “B” or even “C” word) is unwelcome and creates a hostile work environment, an extra legal hoop to jump through compared to other kinds of discrimination. The ERA could help change that, too.

So the ERA is NOT “just” symbolic, as important and critical as the symbol is. Think the symbolism is not important? Then think of how we wear religious icons as jewelry, or wave the flag on the Fourth of July. And think of that symbolism as we try to tell emerging democracies to give a fair shake to women. Such hypocrisy when we don’t have equality even on paper here! How do we explain this to them, let alone our own daughters and granddaughters? (I had a tough time trying to explain this in Cuba where women have had legal equality for decades, albeit aligned against cultural machismo; A Cuban legislator advised me, “Keep fighting!”)

The ultimate decision is with the States, generally your state legislatures. Believe it or not, it is buried in committee again if it exists at all in many states and was actually defeated in Arkansas, Florida and Virginia in the last two legislative sessions. The old red herrings about gay agendas, ordaining women as pastors in conservative religions, and, in Virginia, admitting women into the Citadel military academy prevailed. Or simply “too costly” or “not a high priority.” Even in a blue state such as Illinois, it doesn’t get out of committee despite being reintroduced year after year in the General Assembly; ironically, Illinois put gender equality into our new state constitution in 1971 but did not pass the federal one in 1982–go figure!

For those who think all this women’s rights stuff is passé here, think about something that struck me recently. My Mom is still alive, old but going strong, and an active voter in a swing state. (Oh, how we agree to disagree on politics!) Women got to vote in the federal election for the first time in HER lifetime, only one generation back. How far have we really come, baby? I believed back-in-the-day that I would be around long enough to see a woman in the White House, long enough to see the Constitution specifically address my rights. I have waited long enough. Have you?

ERA words button

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

This is all it says; why such controversy?

So… take a moment, go to http://wh.gov/P6gP, sign in (or create) your White House account, and then sign the petition.  Once done, please spread the word to your friends, colleagues, and family to do the same.