WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) released the following statement in support of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which passed the House today:
“Within my lifetime, the ideal of ‘equal pay for equal work’ was a radical one. In the lifetime of many of those in this chamber, there was a time when it was perfectly acceptable to pay a woman less, simply because she was a woman. In 1963, when the landmark Equal Pay Act was passed, women made barely 60 cents for every dollar earned by men.
“Today, we have closed that gap, thanks not only to generations of women’s advocates, but to millions of women who went to work every day and did their jobs as well as any man. At the same time, any gender gap in wages is a gap too large—and when women still make 77 cents on the male dollar, it is clear that we still have work to do. That wage gap is not simply a symbol of equality imperfectly achieved: It is the cause of serious economic damage for working families. The wage gap costs them a total of $200 billion every year, according to the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation. That’s $4,000 per family, each year.
“The truth is that pay discrimination can go on even in a country where ‘equal pay for equal work’ is the law of the land and the public opinion of almost anyone you’ll meet. That is because unfair pay flourishes in the dark. It depends on staying hidden. I’m sure we have all heard of the case of Lily Ledbetter, who was paid significantly less than her male coworkers, and didn’t find out about it for years.
“Her case is hardly unique. In many workplaces, merely asking a coworker about his or her pay is a firing offense. Far from protecting privacy, rules like that can protect an employer’s power to discriminate.
“This bill is a strike against that discriminatory power. It amends the Equal Pay Act to outlaw retaliation against employees who share or ask about pay information. It strengthens sanctions against discriminatory employers, which have gone unchanged for 17 years. It clarifies the definition of discrimination. And it authorizes additional training for Equal Employment Opportunity Commission staff to better identify and handle wage disputes.
“I want to recognize my colleague, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, for working so hard to bring this bill to the floor. The passage of this important legislation marks another step forward in the work for full equality, which so many women and men have advanced so far.”