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A Message from the Chair


Jenny R. Yang


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Post from Chair Jenny R. Yang - April 12, 2016

Equal Pay Day

Today marks "Equal Pay Day," the day when the average pay for women catches up to the average pay for men from the preceding year alone. In other words, a woman must work more than a year and three months to earn what a man earns in a year. This day serves to remind us that more than 50 years after pay discrimination became illegal with the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, significant gaps in pay persist.

Research shows that even when we control for factors such as education and occupation, there are still significant gaps in earnings by gender, race and ethnicity that cannot be explained. Everyone should receive equal pay for equal work. No one in our country should be paid less simply because of sex, race, or ethnicity. 

Pay discrimination has significant consequences for America's families. Eliminating the pay gap would reduce the number of working poor, improve the financial security of many families, and strengthen the nation's economy. As President Obama said when he signed the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, "Making our economy work, means making sure it works for everyone."

Today I was pleased to join a White House event on diversity in the corporate sector and moderate a panel to advance the conversation with employers, academics, and advocates around what works to ensure equal pay for equal work.

EEOC has made fighting pay discrimination one of its six strategic enforcement priorities. Since 2010, the EEOC has taken in tens of thousands of charges of pay discrimination, and we have helped to recover over $85 million in monetary relief for victims of sex-based pay discrimination.

We know that too many hard-working Americans are still not paid fairly for doing the same work as others. For example, through our litigation we have obtained relief for people whom we alleged were victims of pay discrimination, including a female HR executive who had been underpaid for years, and a female worker at a food distribution facility who learned that a newly hired male colleague, with far less experience and skills, was given a higher salary and was then fired after she complained. EEOC also settled a lawsuit on behalf of Hispanic workers who were not paid overtime pay, unlike their non-Hispanic counterparts, and obtained relief for an African American maintenance worker who faced persistent pay discrimination.

Addressing pay discrimination can be difficult because often employees are discouraged or even fired in retaliation for discussing pay, so they may not even be aware when they are being paid unfairly. Additionally, the lack of data on pay has been a significant barrier to fighting unfair pay.

To address this, the EEOC has proposed to collect pay data from employers with 100 or more employees as part of their annual reporting of workforce data in the EEO-1 report. This proposal seeks to fill a critical void in the information we need to ensure that American workers are paid fairly for their hard work. It will provide the data needed to better understand where potential pay problems exist, so that we can strengthen our enforcement efforts and employers can work proactively to address them. On March 16, EEOC held a public hearing to obtain feedback on the proposal.

Fair pay practices benefit all workers.  On this Equal Pay Day, please join us in renewing efforts to ensure equal pay for equal work around the nation.