WASHINGTON -- In a rare forum outside the nation's capital, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held its monthly meeting in Philadelphia on Tuesday, April 13, to hear testimony from individuals representing a broad range of interests on the issue of discrimination in the payment of wages.
The public Commission Meeting marked another step in EEOC's on-going effort to solicit feedback from agency stakeholders and to share information in a constructive manner. "EEOC is committed to educating employers, employees, and the public about their rights and responsibilities in order to promote voluntary compliance and create workplaces which are free of discrimination," said EEOC Chairwoman Ida L. Castro.
Last year, EEOC received 6,200 charges alleging wage discrimination, accounting for 8 percent of all charges filed with the agency. Since 1992, the agency has received a total of 42,000 charges of wage bias. "Women and minorities deserve equal pay for equal work," Ms. Castro said. "We plan to step-up our efforts in this area through stronger enforcement of the laws covering wage discrimination, coupled with increased education, enhanced outreach, and better customer service."
During the meeting, the Commission heard testimony from two panels representing civil rights advocates, the legal community, economists, policy analysts, and victims of discrimination in the payment of wages. The first panel included: Janice Fanning Madden, Professor of Urban Studies and Sociology, University of Pennsylvania; Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Resident Fellow, American Enterprise Institute; and Molly Perdue, former women's basketball coach and sports administrator at Brooklyn College, the City University of New York. While the panelists agreed that wage discrimination in the workplace still exists, they differed in their views about the extent of the problem and the reasons underlying the gender pay gap.
Professor Madden advanced her theory that co-workers and consumers play a direct role in creating the motive for employers to engage in wage discrimination. "Gender and race matter in the workplace and cause wage disparities," she said, adding that government enforcement is necessary to ensure that employers do not succumb to the pressures of worker and consumer prejudice.
Ms. Furchtgott-Roth, co-author of Women's Figures: An Illustrated Guide to the Economic Progress of Women in America, disputed figures which point out that female workers earn 74 cents on average for every dollar earned by men.
"Such claims do not accurately describe women's compensation in the American workplace," Ms. Furchtgott-Roth said. Rather than widespread discrimination, the gender wage gap is caused by the differences in personal, professional, and educational career choices that women make, including whether to have children, she asserted.
Ms. Perdue pointed out the disparities in funding for men's and women's college sports coaches by describing her firsthand account of wage discrimination. Even though Ms. Perdue's job as women's basketball coach and sports administrator at Brooklyn College was substantially equal to a combination of two jobs held by men, she was paid thousands of dollars less than her male counterparts. Moreover, she received lower retirement benefits and worse terms and conditions of employment. After suing her employer, Ms. Perdue received a favorable jury verdict and award in 1997, and a court award in 1998. "It is difficult for individuals to prove wage disparities," she said in reflecting on her ordeal. "Better policies are needed so that victims of discrimination don't have to resort to lawsuits."
The second panel included: Mark Dichter, management attorney, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP; Patricia Folino (president, Philadelphia chapter), 9-to-5 National Association of Working Women; Robert Sorrell (director, Philadelphia office), National Urban League; and Sara Rios, director of litigation, Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. The panelists made the following recommendations to strengthen enforcement of the pay discrimination laws:
In addition to the EPA, which protects men and women who perform substantially equal work in the same establishment from sex-based wage discrimination, EEOC enforces other statutes which prohibit discrimination in the payment of wages based on race, color, religion, gender, national origin, age, and disability. These laws include Title VII, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Further information about the Commission is available on the agency's web site (www.eeoc.gov).
This page was last modified on April 15, 1999.
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