• Despite Opposition, Obama Administration Will Urge Senate to Pass Paycheck Fairness Act
  • August 16, 2010 | Author: Jane M. McFetridge
  • Law Firm: Jackson Lewis LLP - Chicago Office
  • Signaling that the Administration will press Congress to pass pay-equity legislation, President Barack Obama endorsed the Paycheck Fairness Act in a July 20 statement. On the same day, the White House's Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force released a report identifying five "persistent challenges" in equal pay enforcement. It made recommendations to address each challenge and summarized plans to implement the recommendations.

    The Task Force brought together the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Department of Labor (DOL), and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to focus on violations of equal pay laws.

    Paycheck Fairness Act
    The Task Force recommended that the Administration work with Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. The bill proposes amending the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to make it easier for women to sue their employers, alleging they were paid less than their male counterparts. Among other things, the bill would prohibit employers from presenting in court legitimate reasons for wage disparities as defenses and allow women to sue for uncapped compensatory and punitive damages, rather than just back pay. (For additional details of the bill, see Paycheck Fairness Act Would Negatively Impact Businesses, Jackson Lewis Partner Cautions.)

    Opponents of the bill call it a "cruel hoax" that "will empower trial lawyers whose junk lawsuits will clog up the courts and make it hard for businesses to grow and hire." Supporters say the bill would "provide needed updates to the Equal Pay Act of 1963."

    Other Recommendations and Implementation Plans
    The Task Force also made the following recommendations:

    • Improve interagency coordination and enforcement efforts to maximize the effectiveness of existing authorities.

    • Collect data on the private workforce to better understand the scope of the pay gap and target enforcement efforts.
    • Undertake a public education campaign to educate employers on their obligations and employees on their rights.
    • Implement a strategy to improve the federal government's role as a model employer.

       

    It identified underused coordination and enforcement authorities among and within the agencies and reported the EEOC, DOJ, DOL, and Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) have begun evaluating and implementing cooperative programs.

    According to the Task Force, the OFCCP will “hire more than 200 employees, most of whom will be Compliance Officers, the front line employees responsible for detecting discriminatory practices.”