‘A fundamental issue of fairness’: Gender pay gap bill blocked by Senate Republicans

WASHINGTON – The Senate Tuesday blocked consideration of a bill opposed by business organizations that would have made it harder for employers to pay women less than their male co-workers.

The vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act was 49-50 with Democrats in support and Republicans opposed. At least 60 votes were needed to end the filibuster and move the bill to the floor for a vote.

The legislation passed the House 217-210 in April along party lines as well, and is supported by President Joe Biden. The House passed similar bills in the past only to see them die in the Senate like this one.

Women who work full time, year-round are paid, on average, 82 cents for every dollar earned by men, according to the National Women’s Law Center. This wage gap is more pronounced for women of color: Black women typically make only 63 cents, Native American women only 60 cents, and Latinas only 55 cents, for every dollar paid to their white, non-Hispanic male counterparts.

“We have been talking about the wage gap for years now with no action taken by this Senate. Women with the same jobs, the same degrees – sometimes even better degrees – than their male colleagues are making less money. For women of color, the gap is even wider,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the Senate floor Tuesday before the vote. “This is a fundamental issue of fairness.”

Equal Pay Day: A look at the wage gap (Photo: USA TODAY)

The measure would have: required employers to disclose more information about their pay scales, including proving that pay disparities between male and female workers are due to legitimate, job-related reasons; prevented retaliation against employees who shared pay information with colleagues; and toughened penalties against employers found guilty of violations.

“In Michigan, we tell our daughters that they can be anything they want to be when they grow up,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., told reporters Tuesday. “Let’s make sure that includes being paid as well as our sons.”

But business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, say the legislation would have unfairly restricted employers from compensating workers based on factors such as experience, education, location, and shift work, which can result in pay differentials between workers employed by the same business in similar positions.

The measure “would impose a new multi-factor test that includes a vague ‘business necessity’ test that would effectively eliminate the ability of an employer to make compensation decisions based on such factors,” Chamber Executive Vice President Neil Bradley wrote in a letter to House leaders in March. “As a result, employees will not be compensated based on the attributes they bring to the job and their actual contributions to their employer.”

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