Mikulski, DeLauro Applaud President's Decision to Sign Executive Orders Supporting Equal Pay for Equal Work

Mikulski and DeLauro had written to President Obama requesting he sign an executive order banning retaliation by government contractors against employees who discuss salary

April 7, 2014

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), Dean of the Senate women and a senior member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, along with Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies, today applauded President Obama's decision to issue an executive order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees who choose to discuss their compensation, and collecting information from federal contractors on pay broken down by sex and race.  

Senator Mikulski and Congresswoman DeLauro had written to President Obama urging him to take executive action. Their letter is available here. As the nation marks Equal Pay Day on Tuesday, they have continued to call on Congress to take up and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation they introduced which would help close the wage gap between women and men working equivalent jobs, costing women and their families $434,000 over their careers.  

"I applaud President Obama's decision to take executive action to ensure that contractors doing business with the United States government are not retaliating against hardworking Americans seeking equal pay for equal work. I urged President Obama to take this important step while we work to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act in Congress so that women fighting for equal pay will no longer be fighting on their own," Senator Mikulski said. "It's been more than half a century since the Equal Pay Act but women still make just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. Women should no longer be sidelined, redlined or pink slipped. I call on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act so we can put change in the lawbooks and change into checkbooks of working families across America."  

"Tomorrow we mark Equal Pay Day, the day when an average woman's earnings finally catch up to what her male colleagues made the prior year.  A key part of ending what President Kennedy called the 'serious and endemic' problem of unequal wages is having the knowledge that you are being paid less in the first place. Just ask Lilly Ledbetter, who only found out she was being paid less because of an anonymous note. In order to detect and combat pay discrimination, employees must be able to share salary information with their coworkers without fear of punishment. I constantly hear from women across the country that unequal pay continues to happen and is hard to uncover," Congresswoman DeLauro said. "This is not just about women; it is about ensuring families, who are more reliant on women's wages than ever, are not being shortchanged. Collecting data is a necessary step if we are to identify and end patterns of pay disparity. I am pleased the Labor Department will be taking steps to finally deal with this scourge head-on. And I could not applaud more strongly the President's Executive Order banning retaliation among federal contractors. Now Congress needs to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act so we can ensure women succeed and America succeeds."  

President Obama's first bill, signed into law on January 29, 2009, was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which overturned the 180-day statute of limitations for women to contest pay discrimination. It was an important down-payment in ending the pay gap and keeping the courthouse doors open. In January, President Obama renewed his call for Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act in his State of the Union Address.  

The legislation would require employers to demonstrate that wage gaps between men and women doing the same work have a business justification and are truly a result of factors other than gender. The bill would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information with their co-workers.  

While women still make on average 77 cents to every dollar made by a male, the Paycheck Fairness Act builds on the promise of the Equal Pay Act, passed more than 50 years ago on June 10, 1963. It helps close the pay gap by empowering women to negotiate for equal pay, closing loopholes courts have created in the law, creating strong incentives for employers to obey the laws and strengthening federal outreach and enforcement efforts.  

State-by-state data on the wage gap is available here.

The Paycheck Fairness Act also would strengthen the Department of Labor's (DOL) ability to help women achieve pay equity by requiring DOL to enhance outreach and training efforts to work with employers in order to eliminate pay disparities and to continue to collect and disseminate wage information based on gender. The bill would also create a competitive grant program to provide negotiation skills training programs for girls and women.