WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to protect Americans from wage discrimination and eliminate the gender gap in U.S. workers’ pay, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) is renewing his call for Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.  Reed has joined Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and 53 other U.S. Senators in cosponsoring legislation to help strengthen federal pay equity laws and ensure equal pay for equal work.

The Paycheck Fairness Act builds on the promise of the Equal Pay Act, passed more than 50 years ago on June 10, 1963.  It would help close the gender gap in wages 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.

“Passing the Paycheck Fairness Act will help prevent gender discrimination in pay,” said Senator Reed. “Rebuilding the middle-class begins with good-paying jobs, but that won’t happen if women continue to earn less than they deserve.  The persistent pay gap between men and women doing the same job diminishes our entire economy, because many households across Rhode Island depend on women's salaries for either part or all of their family income.  So when women earn less for doing the same jobs as their male co-workers, it hurts families' ability to put food on the table, pay their bills, and save for retirement.”

Today is the national observance of Equal Pay Day - the point in the year when a woman's wages catch up to a man's wages from the previous year.  Data released today from the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island indicate that 56 percent of minimum-wage workers in Rhode Island are women, and 71 percent of families with children living in poverty have a woman as head-of-household.  

“There is broad consensus from the American public: they support an honest wage for honest work and they want our nation to achieve equal pay for equal work.  We need to turn that consensus into action, pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, and protect all workers,” said Reed.

The Paycheck Fairness Act will:

  • Clarify 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.
  • Prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who discuss or disclose salary information with their co-workers.
  • Require the Department of Labor to improve outreach and training efforts to work with employers in order to eliminate pay disparities.
  • Enhance 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) has introduced a similar version of the bill in the U.S. House of Representatives.