A couple of years ago, House Dems passed the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA), which aims to make certain men and women are paid equally. The measure is also meant to shutter loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963, which makes it mandatory that males and females get equal pay for equal work. Thanks to that legislation, companies may not use gender as a legit reason for pay gaps.
But does the Paycheck Fairness Act go far enough?
What Does the Paycheck Fairness Act Do?
- Modifies what “work establishment” means. Many companies these days operate out of multiple offices. So, the new definition would include any of an employer’s places of business.
- Further defines a legit pay discrimination lawsuit defense. According to the PFA, such a legal defense must be based on a genuine employment-related factor such as experience, education or training … anything other than gender.
- Provide more robust plaintiff remedies. The PFA would allow successful plaintiffs to recover punitive and compensatory damages. Such proposed modifications would put sex-based discrimination in the same category race discrimination.
- Change class-action planks. The legislation makes it easier to join a class-action lawsuit unless an employee requests to be excluded. How? Members of the class in question will automatically be considered as such.
- Stop employers from penalizing employees for sharing salary details. In fact, more and more states are making such punitive actions illegal; the PFA would make them uniform. Absent such protection, fear of termination will keep some employees from making their earnings known, blocking them from learning whether they’re experiencing pay equity – or not.
- Heightens enforcement. Under the PFA, companies would be required to share with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission compensation info and related data such as gender, race and ethnicity. Why? So that the EEOC can track prospective discriminatory practices and hold employers’ feet to the proverbial fire.
- Provide negotiations skills training. The bill authorizes establishment of a grant program for qualified entities to provide negotiation skills training programs to address pay disparities.
How Can the Fairness Act Improve?
- It should require that companies share salary ranges with workers. Beyond protecting workers in salary discussions, it would be better if employees didn’t have to ask colleagues what they earn. Companies would merely post the salary range for each position. The latter is what the bill should make mandatory.
- It should include more family benefits. One reason the gender pay chasm is so wide is because women are more apt to take job breaks to attend to family. A law requiring that companies provide paid parental and family leave benefits to all employees would tacitly communicate that a woman’s career is as important as her husband’s. It would also give women more chances to fully participate in the workforce.
- The PFA should mandate federal reporting requirements around promotion and retention rates. Doing so would likely spark substantial employer changes, consequently helping with promotion and retention opportunity gaps.
- Provide STEM education for girls. The bill does call for the establishment for negotiation skills training. While great, it’s insufficient. The fact is that women in general aren’t terrible at negotiation, they just aren’t being employed as frequently as men in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields. So, it would help if the measure backed establishment of new STEM education programs.
- Provide support for female entrepreneurs. In the United States, female entrepreneurs get only 2% of venture capital dollars. Why? Largely because venture capital firms aren’t sufficiently diverse. So, the PFA could help these women by creating government-sponsored efforts that provide capital and help them grow their networks.
So, does the Paycheck Fairness Act for far enough? Not really, even though it offers solid improvements over the Equal Pay Act. The good news is there’s still time to advocate for changes.