WASHINGTON - Tuesday, April 9, 2013 is Equal Pay Day, the day that marks the end of the extra period of time that the average woman in the U.S. must work in order to earn what the average man earned during the previous year.
In 1963, a year before the enactment of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act (EPA) to end wage disparities among employees who performed work requiring substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions. At the time, Congress found that sex-based wage discrimination contributed to underutilization of the labor force and unfair competition. On signing the EPA, President John F. Kennedy said that the EPA "affirms our determination that when women enter the labor force, they will find equality in their pay envelope."
Ever since the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on sex, race, color, national origin, and religion, the EEOC has been at the forefront of the battle for equal pay. In 1978, the EEOC assumed responsibility of enforcing the Equal Pay Act. In addition to enforcing Title VII and the EPA, the EEOC also works to stop and remedy illegal pay discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Genetic Information Non-discrimination Act.
This year will mark the 50th anniversary of the passage of the Equal Pay Act. Although we have come a long way since the days when gender-based salary inequities were explicitly condoned by law and corporate policies, vestiges of the past persist. Women continue to earn significantly less than men, even controlling for factors such as occupation, educational level, and hours worked. The gender pay gap is even larger when race and national origin are factored in for African American and Latina women.
In the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan (FY 2013-2016), the Commission prioritized the enforcement of equal pay laws, and committed to enhanced enforcement of equal pay laws to eliminate compensation systems and practices that discriminate based on gender. In Fiscal Year 2012, EEOC received over 4,100 charges of gender-based wage discrimination, and obtained over $24 million in relief for victims of gender-based wage discrimination through administrative enforcement efforts and litigation. The EEOC also continues to serve as a key member of the National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force, a federal government initiative focused on ending the gender pay gap.
As we commemorate Equal Pay Day, we acknowledge the progress achieved in five decades since the Equal Pay Act took effect, but we also recommit ourselves to the goal of ensuring, once and for all, that the promise of the Equal Pay Act is realized for every worker in the United States of America. As President Barack Obama observed in his Proclamation for National Equal Pay Day, 2013: "Our country has come a long way toward ensuring everyone gets a fair shot at opportunity, no matter who you are or where you come from. But our journey will not be complete until our mothers, our wives, our sisters, and our daughters are treated equally in the workplace and always see an honest day's work rewarded with honest wages."
The EEOC enforces the nation's laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.