Sending Office: Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton
Cosponsor a Bill to Eliminate Unequal Pay for Women in Gender-Based Jobs
Please join me in cosponsoring the Fair Pay Act of 2019 (H.R. 2039). The 1963 Equal Pay Act (EPA), the first of the great civil rights statutes of the 1960s, has grown creaky with age and needs updating to reflect the new workforce, where women work almost
as much as men. It is long past time to amend the EPA to reflect this new workforce.
This year marked the 10th anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which further strengthens the EPA by restoring its original interpretation. However, the Fair Pay Act of 2019 (FPA) picks up where the EPA and the Lilly Ledbetter Act
left off by taking on workplace gender discrimination in which gender-influenced wages leave the average female worker without any remedy.
Much of the wage inequality women experience today is because of employer-steering and deeply rooted wage stereotypes, which result in wages paid according to gender and not according to the skill necessary to do the job. I introduced the FPA because the
pay disparity women face today often stems from the segregation of women and men into different jobs with women in female-dominated jobs systematically being paid less. Two-thirds of white women and three quarters of African-American women work in just three
areas: sales/clerical, service and factories. We need more aggressive strategies to break through the societal barriers present throughout history the world over, as well as employer-steering based on gender, which is as old as paid employment itself.
The FPA requires that if men and women are doing comparable work, they are to be paid comparable wages. If a woman, for example, is an emergency services operator, a female-dominated profession, she should not be paid less than a fire dispatcher, a male-dominated
profession, simply because each of these jobs has been dominated by one sex. If a woman is a social worker, a traditionally female occupation, she should not earn less than a probation officer, a traditionally male job, simply because of the gender associated
with each of these jobs.
The FPA, like the EPA, will not tamper with the legal burden. Under the FPA, as under the EPA, the burden will be on the plaintiff to prove discrimination. The plaintiff must show that the reason for the disparate treatment is gender discrimination, not
legitimate market factors.
Remedies to achieve comparable pay for men and women are not radical or unprecedented. State governments, in red and blue states alike, have shown that it is possible to eliminate the part of the pay gap that is due to discrimination. Twenty state governments
have adjusted wages for female-dominated professions, raising pay for teachers, nurses, clerical workers, librarians, and other female-dominated jobs that paid less than comparable male-dominated jobs. Minnesota, for example, implemented a pay equity plan
when it found that traditionally female jobs paid 20 percent less than comparable traditionally male jobs. There may well be some portion of a gender wage gap that is traceable to market factors, but 20 states have shown that you can tackle the gender discrimination-based
wage gap. States generally have closed the wage gap over a period of four to five years at a one-time cost of no more than three to four percent of payroll.
In addition, many female workers routinely achieve pay equity through collective bargaining, and countless employers provide it on their own as they see women shifting out of vital female-dominated occupations as a result of the shortage of skilled workers,
as well as because of the unfairness to women. Unequal pay has been built into the way women have been treated since Adam and Eve. To dislodge such deep-seated and pervasive treatment, we must go to the source, the traditionally female occupations, where
pay is linked with gender and always has been.
The FPA simply modernizes the EPA to bring it in line with subsequent civil rights statutes, and I urge you to become a cosponsor. If you would like to cosponsor, or if you have any questions, please contact my staffer Trent Holbrook at (202) 225-8050 or
Eleanor Holmes Norton
e-Dear Colleague version 2.0