On Equal Pay Day, Leahy Calls For End To Discrimination Affecting American Women In The Workforce

. . . Leahy Also Announces Growing Support For His Bill To Shield Women From Forced Arbitration When They Face Workplace Discrimination; Again Calls On Senators To Support His Resolution On FIFA’s Gender Discrimination

WASHINGTON (TUESDAY, April 12, 2016) – Hardworking women in Vermont and across the country face persistent gender discrimination with every paycheck, a glaring problem that Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said everyone from business leaders to Congress must address in order to ensure equal opportunity for all workers.

In Equal Pay Day remarks Tuesday morning on the Senate Floor, Leahy said:  “The United States is often looked to as a leader in the global landscape, setting the gold standard for others.  Unfortunately, when it comes to pay parity, American women continue to be treated unequally and unfairly in the workplace.”  Leahy called this reality “unacceptable.” 

As chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Leahy convened a high profile hearing in 2008 on wage discrimination featuring Lilly Ledbetter, who discovered just weeks before her retirement that her employer had been paying her significantly less than male coworkers performing the same job.  Leahy was an original cosponsor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, signed into law in 2009, to help protect workers from pay discrimination.  Most recently, he is a cosponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation that takes additional steps to ensure wage equality in the workplace.

Leahy has continued his fight to root out discrimination from laws affecting women in the workplace and to call on business and other leaders throughout the world to adopt best practices to do the same.  Last year, after the Women’s World Cup drew international attention and record-breaking audiences, it was revealed that the female athletes who competed this year were compensated far less than their male counterparts. 

While fans celebrated the thrilling win of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, Leahy introduced a Senate resolution calling on the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) to immediately eliminate gender discrimination between male and female athletes.  Senate Republicans blocked the resolution from passage last year, but Leahy said Tuesday he will continue to press all senators to support the commonsense measure.

“An equal prize award structure in sports just makes sense – but opponents have pointed to revenue as the reason behind this gross disparity.  This is wrong and unacceptable.  Tennis icons like Billie Jean King and Venus Williams did not accept these arguments and instead fought for equal prize awards in the face of overwhelming adversity,” Leahy said.  

Leahy also announced Tuesday that 10 women senators have signed on as cosponsors to his legislation to restore Americans’ rights to enforce equal pay, nondiscrimination, and other vital federal and state statutes in court instead of in forced arbitration.  The Restoring Statutory Rights Act, which Leahy introduced in February with Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.), would ensure that women who are subject to gender discrimination or other violations of their statutory rights can enforce those rights in court. 

Cosponsors joining the Leahy-Franken legislation Tuesday include Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).  Senator Warren (D-Mass.) is already a cosponsor of the bill.

At a time when women still make 79 cents for every dollar made by their male counterparts, ‎we must ensure that our equal pay and other civil rights laws are meaningfully enforced,” Leahy said.  “Unfortunately, countless Americans are being stripped of their rights under these laws by contracts that force them into the shadow justice system of forced arbitration.  I will continue to fight alongside Senator Mikulski, Lilly Ledbetter, the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team and so many others to ensure that women and all workers are treated fairly.”

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