April 4, 2017—Equal Pay Day—is marked to raise awareness of the current gender pay gap in the United States. Equal Pay Day is recognized on a different day each year to symbolize how long women must work before they earn the equivalent of what men earned during the previous year.
In other words, it takes women more than fifteen months to make what men make in twelve months on average! According to the National Women’s Law Center, women today are paid 20 percent less than men in the United States; this is true at all education levels and it only gets worse as women’s careers progress. A much wider pay gap exists for women of color.
The federal Equal Pay Act was enacted 54 years ago, making it unlawful for employers to discriminate in pay between men and women who work in the same establishment and who perform jobs that require “equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.” Proposed federal legislation, called the Paycheck Fairness Act, has been repeatedly introduced in Congress to amend to bolster the Equal Pay Act, by requiring, for example, wage transparency among employers. The bill has repeatedly stalled in Congress and was last introduced in the House in March of 2015.
A number of states, however, have enacted similar laws, providing even more protection. For example, the California Fair Pay Act ensures that male and female employees who perform “substantially similar” work receive equal pay, even if they work at different work sites for the same employer or if they have different job titles.
Someday, we hope there is no need to “celebrate” an Equal Pay Day. Until then, Nichols Kaster, PLLP, will continue to fight for equal pay for equal work.
By Laura A. Baures and Rebekah L. Bailey