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Rep. Lawson votes to modernize equal pay protections, close gender gap

equal pay
Posted at 2:01 PM, Apr 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-16 14:01:14-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — U.S. Rep. Al Lawson (FL-05) voted to pass H.R. 7, the Paycheck Fairness Act, landmark legislation that will help close the gender wage gap by strengthening equal pay protections for women.

The bill would create more effective remedies for women who are not being paid equal pay for equal work, including requiring employers to prove that pay disparities exist for legitimate, job-related reasons, new tools for the Department of Labor to enforce pay equity and protections against retaliation for workers who voluntarily discuss or disclose wages.

“It’s shameful that in the 21st century, employers can still get away with paying women less than men for doing the same job,” Rep. Lawson said. “This doesn’t just harm women in the workplace, it impacts their families, too. A smaller paycheck means fewer groceries and more missed bills. It means making families choose between changing a flat tire and visiting the doctor’s office. Our Paycheck Fairness Act modernizes and strengthens equal pay protections so that we can unleash the full power of women in the workforce.”

Nearly six decades after Congress enacted the 1963 Equal Pay Act, there is still a serious wage gap based on gender and race.

Full-time working women earn only 82 cents, on average, for every dollar a man earns, which amounts to an annual disparity of $10,157 and a career disparity of more than $400,000.

The gap is even larger for women of color: on average, Black women earn just 63 cents, Native American women just 60 cents and Latinas just 55 cents for every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man earns.

To help close this gap, the Paycheck Fairness Act strengthens the protections and closes the loopholes in the Equal Pay Act. The bill would:

  • Require employers to prove that pay disparities exist for legitimate, job-related reasons and ban retaliation against workers who voluntarily discuss or disclose their wages.
  • Prohibit employers from relying on salary history in determining future pay, so that pay discrimination does not follow women from job to job.
  • Improve the Department of Labor’s tools for enforcing the Equal Pay Act and ensure women can receive the same robust remedies for sex-based pay discrimination that are currently available to those subjected to pay discrimination based on race and ethnicity.
  • Provide assistance to all businesses to help them with their equal pay practices and create a negotiation skills training program to help women negotiate higher pay.

“While breaking new ground for gender equity, the 1963 Equal Pay Act has not done enough to ensure that women are paid the same as men for equal work,” Rep. Lawson continued. “I am proud to have voted for this historic legislation, which will significantly strengthen and modernize equal pay protections by banning retaliation against workers who voluntarily discuss or disclose their wages, offering effective remedies for women who learn they are not receiving equal pay and placing the burden on employers to prove that pay disparities exist for legitimate, job-related reasons.”

The Paycheck Fairness Act passed on a bipartisan vote in the Democratic-led House in the previous Congress. However, the bill died in the Senate after the Republican-controlled chamber refused to bring it up for a vote.