Equal Pay Act struggles in Senate

By Emily Scott
Copy Editors

On Feb. 12, Obama gave his State of the Union address, in which he called on Congress to approve his ‘Paycheck Fairness Act’ which would ensure that men and women would receive equal pay in the work force. Women could then seek disciplinary damages for pay discrimination. This bill would make it much more difficult for employers to settle on salary and would bring in a new wave of Civil Rights lawsuits.

“Courts have allowed employers to use any factor other than sex to justify a pay disparity between men and women,” former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated in support of the bill. Under the Paycheck Fairness Act, an employer would have to show that the disparity is job-related, and is consistent with business necessity.

Although there are already federal laws, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964, that ban gender-based pay discrimination, there is still a wide gap in salary between genders due to loopholes. In a 2009 survey issued by the Department of Education, women who worked full-time jobs one year after receiving a college diploma earned 82 cents less than men. “It’s hard to believe that women still make less than men even now,” junior Julia Guindon said.

This may be a deceiving number, but this report also found that in salary, there is an $8,000 difference between genders. Even if these factors are controlled – both genders having the same jobs with the same hours – men were still paid seven percent higher than women, according to the American Association of University Women.

Not all women agree that the law will ultimately change society. “I’m not sure if the law is as significant as education. An equal pay bill needs to happen but women also need to learn how to fight for their own rights,” English teacher, Kate Livingstone stated.

In June, Congress had rejected this same bill. Obama declared it “incredibly disappointing that Senate Republicans put partisan politics ahead of American women and their families.” During his Inaugural Address, he vowed to get the Paycheck Fairness Act passed in this term.

This bill will be another great triumph in Civil Rights for women. Obama is hoping Congress will pass the bill within this year. Hopefully – with time and progress – it will diminish pay discrimination in this country.