WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to draw attention to wage discrimination and ongoing efforts to bridge the gender pay gap, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) is renewing his push to help pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.  Earlier this year, Reed joined Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and 41 U.S. Senators in introducing this legislation to help strengthen federal pay equity laws and ensure equal pay for equal work. 

Today is Equal Pay Day, which marks the fact that, on average, women make just 77 cents on the dollar compared to men, and the number of extra days into 2013 women must work to earn what men doing the same job earned in 2012.

“Equal Pay Day is an opportunity to recognize the progress we have made as a nation on ensuring fairness, justice, and equality in the workplace.  But there are still many barriers to overcome to close the pay gap and make certain that an individual’s gender, race, and age are not an impediment to their economic opportunity and career advancement,” said Reed.  “Passing the Paycheck Fairness Act will help ensure all Americans are protected from pay discrimination and treated fairly in the workplace.”

A new state-by-state analysis of the gender wage gap in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), showed a wage gap in every state, but noted Rhode Island ranks #6 nationwide and has a narrower pay gap for women than the national average.  On average, a woman in Rhode Island who works full time, year round is paid 85 cents for every dollar paid to a man, which is higher than the overall national average wage gap of 77 cents.

A second study, by the National Partnership for Women & Families, examining pay in the nation’s 50 largest metro regions, found that “as a group, women who are employed full time in the Providence area lose approximately $2,090,627,160 each year due to the wage gap.  The April 2013 report also stated: “In the Providence metro area, on average, a woman who holds a full-time job is paid $40,893 per year while a man who holds a full-time job is paid $50,283 per year” resulting in a yearly gap of $9,390 between men and women who work full time.

Both organizations used data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which tracks annual wages in its Current Population Survey, in their findings. 

The Paycheck Fairness Act builds on the promise of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and helps close the pay gap by empowering women to negotiate for equal pay, closing loopholes courts have created in the law, creating strong incentives for employers to obey the laws, and strengthening federal outreach and enforcement efforts.  Specifically, the legislation:

•             Clarifies the 'any factor other than sex' defense so an employer trying to justify paying a man more than a woman for the same job must show the disparity is not sex-based; but is job related and is necessary for the business.

•             Prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who discuss or disclose salary information with their co-workers.

•             Requires the Department of Labor to improve outreach and training efforts to work with employers in order to eliminate pay disparities.

•             Enhances the collection of information on women's and men's wages in order to more fully explore the reasons for the wage gap and help employers in addressing pay disparities.

Congresswoman Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT) introduced a similar version of the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.