Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) have reintroduced the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that seeks to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, into the Senate this week. The measure was first introduced in 2009, passing in the House, but failing to garner Republican support in the Senate; in 2011, the bill fell short of the six votes necessary to override a Senate filibuster.
Senator DeLauro, who has been responsible for introducing the Paycheck Fairness act for each of the past eight congresses (which must feel similar to banging one’s head repeatedly against a wall), designed the legislation to help women who believe they are victims of gender-based wage discrimination. In a press release, she said, “The Paycheck Fairness Act will help the Equal Pay Act fulfill its intended objective, offer real protections to ensure equal pay for equal work, and see that women are paid the same as the other half of our nation’s workforce for the same job.”
The first bill signed into law by President Obama was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which overturned the 180-day statue of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit. The Paycheck Fairness Act would work alongside Ledbetter, closing the legal loopholes that allow pay discrimination to continue and making it easier for employees to challenge wage discrepancies. The proposed bill, S.84, requires employers to prove that wage differences are related to legitimate business specifications and not gender. It also prohibits companies from retaliating against employees who file wage discrimination claims and allows victims to seek back pay and punitive damages for lost wages. In addition, the bill would empower working women, increasing the Department of Labor’s training efforts to eliminate wage discrepancies and enacting a grant program to teach women negotiation skills.