WASHINGTON, DC -- In an effort to end wage discrimination and close the gender pay gap, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI)  is renewing the push to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.  Senator Reed has once again cosponsored legislation to strengthen the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by helping to eliminate the gender wage gap; guarantee that women can challenge pay discrimination and hold employers accountable; and assist employers with technical training to ensure compliance and fair pay.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, the female-to-male earnings ratio in Rhode Island is 82 percent (or 82 cents for every dollar).  This gender gap in earnings translates into $10,157 less per year in median earnings, leaving women and their families shortchanged.  The gap is even greater for women of color.

“Women deserve equal pay for equal work and no woman should take a pay hit because she is or may become a parent.   But twelve years after the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was signed into law to help prevent pay discrimination, we still have a long way to go to close the gender wage gap.  And the COVID-19 pandemic has only widened the income disparities and wealth gap for women, especially women of color.  The Paycheck Fairness Act can help change that by increasing transparency and ensuring employers comply with fair pay standards, which means ensuring gender is not a factor in setting a pay grade for the same job that male employees hold.  This bill would end the practice of pay secrecy and strengthen the available remedies for wronged employees,” said Senator Reed.

The Paycheck Fairness Act is being led in the U.S. Senate by Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), incoming Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, and in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, who introduced H.R. 7.

Pay inequity not only affects women – it affects children and families and our economy as a whole.  That is because women in this country are the sole or co-breadwinner in half of families with children.  Over the past two decades, women make a growing share of the family income in all family types.

The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) released research showing “the COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting effect on the pay gap, since more women have been forced to drop out of the workforce.  According to a study by IWPR, a woman who takes off for a single year will likely never catch up, earning less for up to 15 years after she returns to the workforce.”

“Fifty-seven years after Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, there is still unacceptable and deeply unfair disparity between workers’ pay due to differences in gender, race, and age,” said Senator Reed.  “Sadly, many women in the United States on average still earn significantly less than their male counterparts, and for women of color the numbers are even lower.  This bill will help to ensure that gender and race are not factors in determining anyone’s economic opportunity and career advancement, and will close loopholes that prevent the enforcement of the right to equal pay for equal work.  The time has come for true equality in and out of the workplace and I commend my colleagues for once again introducing this much-needed legislation.”