Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) On The Paycheck Fairness Act

[The Senate is now holding a procedural vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation cosponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that would close the gender wage-gap and help ensure equal pay for equal work.  The legislation has twice before been considered by the Senate, and has twice been filibustered.  Today’s procedural vote is on a motion to proceed to the bill, which would enable the Senate to begin debate on the measure.  Senator Leahy’s statement on the legislation follows.]

 Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
On The Paycheck Fairness Act
April 9, 2014

Five years ago, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was signed into law by President Obama.  That bill – necessary because of a divided decision by the Supreme Court to strike a blow to the rights of working families in Vermont and across the country – was a first step in closing the still-existing gender wage-gap.  Today, one day after commemorating Equal Pay Day, Senators will once again have the opportunity to stand with working families and support equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender.

I am proud to cosponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act, which Senator Mikulski – a trailblazer herself – has once again introduced to close loopholes that allow employers to unfairly discriminate workers based on gender. Thanks to the hard work and perseverance of earlier generations , working women today have career and business opportunities never before available. Yet, despite the gains we have made, there remains a troubling constant – women continue to earn less than men. According to the Census Bureau, women still only earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. This disparity has real-world, financial consequences: on average, women are paid more than $11,000 per year less than men. And of American households with children under the age of 18, 40 percent list women as their sole or primary earners.  The wage-gap based on gender is hurting low- and middle-income families that, in today’s economy, still wrestle with putting food on the table, heating their homes, paying the mortgage, and saving for college. 

Vermont has been a national leader in addressing equal pay for equal work.  In 2002, Vermont adopted its own Equal Pay Act, making it illegal for employers to offer anything less than equal pay for equal work.  Still, in Vermont, where 22,000 households are headed by women, the yearly gender pay-gap is nearly $6,000.  More needs to be done, and we can do better.

Our national march toward equality continues. The Paycheck Fairness Act builds on efforts that date back more than 50 years to ensure a balanced and equal playing field in the workplace for both men and women.  The Paycheck Fairness Act will require employers to show a difference in pay is truly linked to job performance and not to gender. It will protect employees from being retaliated against by their employers for discussing salaries with colleagues, and remove obstacles to challenging pay discrimination in a court of law. It will provide employers with assistance to create equal pay practices, and recognize those who already adhere to such practices.  These are commonsense provisions we can all support.

The Paycheck Fairness Act has twice before been filibustered in the Senate.  Meanwhile, hardworking families across the country, anchored by the incomes of hardworking women, continue to struggle.  Equal pay for equal work is a matter of simple fairness, and the Paycheck Fairness Act is an important step towards just that.  I urge all Senators to support this bill.

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