Fifty years after a fair-wage bill became law, women still earn just 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for doing equal work. And that disparity costs each individual, couple or family $400,000 to $2 million over a woman's career, according to U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo.
To correct that chasm, she and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., reintroduced the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation to help close the wage gap between women and men working the same jobs, her office announced Thursday, Jan. 24.
The act prohibits employer retaliation for sharing salary information with coworkers. Under current law employers can sue and punish employees for sharing such information.
In addition, it strengthens remedies for pay discrimination by increasing compensation women can seek, allowing them to not only seek back pay, but also punitive damages for pay discrimination.
The legislation also empowers women in the workplace through a grant program to strengthen salary negotiation and other workplace skills, and requires the Department of Labor to enhance outreach and training to eliminate pay disparities.
Women in Eshoo's Congressional District 18, which includes Palo Alto, fare better than the national average by making 83 percent of what men earn, which translates into a loss of $6,419 annually per woman, according to the National Partnership for Women and Families, an advocacy group.
But pay for women in the 18th district is below that of 31 other congressional districts in California. There are just 12 districts out of 435 nationwide where women working full time make equal or greater median pay than men, according to the National Partnership.
California has a total of 53 districts. But women earn equal or more pay than men in just four -- and all of them are in the Los Angeles area:
District 28 (Hollywood, Pasadena area): 100 percent
District 31 (Los Angeles proper): 106 percent
District 33 (Santa Monica, Beverley Hills, Agoura Hills area): 103 percent
District 35 (Pomona, Chino, Ontario, Fontana area): 101 percent
This is not the first time around for the Paycheck Fairness Act. DeLauro has introduced the bill for each of the past eight congresses. No real meaningful equal-pay legislation has become law since the landmark Equal Pay Act signed into law in 1963.
The Paycheck Fairness Act would close loopholes that have kept the 1963 law from achieving its goal of equal pay. The bill would require employers to show pay disparity is truly related to job-performance and not to gender, Eshoo's office said.
President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law on Jan. 29, 2009, which overturned the 180-day statute of limitations for women to contest pay discrimination. That legislation was an important down-payment in ending the pay gap and keeping the courthouse doors open, Eshoo's office said.
The timing for the reintroduction comes on the heels of Obama's second inaugural address on Jan. 21, when he called for equal pay for equal work once and for all.
"With a record number of women in the workforce, wage discrimination hurts the majority of American families, both in terms of their economic security today and their retirement security tomorrow. This means fewer resources to pay the mortgage, send kids to college, or have a decent retirement.
"Pay inequity due to gender discrimination is real, it should not be tolerated, and we need to take action against it. The Paycheck Fairness Act is the path forward," Eshoo said in a statement.
DeLauro added that "equal pay is not just a problem for women, but for families who are trying to pay their bills, trying to get ahead, trying to achieve the American Dream, and are getting a smaller paycheck than they have earned for their hard work."