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Executive order advances pay equality

An executive order signed by the president this week is seen as a big step in the direction of pay equality for women and minorities. The order puts new requirements on government contractors to disclose pay data with race and gender denoted and to prohibit retaliation against employees who discuss their pay with colleagues. Both of these measures are aimed at greater transparency which experts say will incentivize companies to create better policies that eliminate the disparity between white men and women and minorities. Currently women make only 77 cents for every one dollar that men make, with an even wider gap for women of color who make only 54-64 cents on the dollar.

Advocates have been seeking a larger step towards pay equality in the form of the Fair Paycheck Act, which closes many of the loopholes left by the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the only major update of that law, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.

Advocates for equal pay say that penalizing secrecy sends a strong message to employers that they can’t hide unfair pay policies behind confidentiality. Studies have shown that transparency about pay does decrease the gender gap. However, this new order applies only to government contractors, so not every worker in the country will have access to the right to discuss their pay with colleagues. Still, putting requirements on government contractors impacts a wide swatch of employers across various sectors and can often influence larger trends.

Women who are concerned that they are not being paid equally compared with similarly qualified male colleagues should know that they do have a right to seek equal pay through an employment law action.

Source: Al Jazeera America, “Obama Signs Executive Order on Equal Pay For Women,” Lisa De Bode, April 8, 2014. 

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