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Remarks of Chair Jenny R. Yang at the White House Equal Pay Event, January 29, 2016

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Thank you Valerie, for your leadership on equal pay. I would also like to thank President Obama for his unwavering commitment to advancing opportunity for all. Through our work at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, we have seen the impact that this Administration's commitment has had on the lives of so many Americans. It is a pleasure to be here today with Lilly Ledbetter and all of you to commemorate this important anniversary. Today, we celebrate the critical role that the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act has played in helping workers challenge discrimination in their paychecks -- just like Lilly Ledbetter did.

But, we know that too often pay discrimination goes undetected because of the lack of information about what people are paid. Too many hard-working Americans are still not paid equally for equal work. No one should be paid less simply because of her gender, race, or ethnicity. Considerable research demonstrates that even when people perform the same work and have the same qualifications, significant pay gaps persist. At the EEOC, we have seen that play out time and again. Since the creation of the President's Equal Pay Task Force in 2010, the EEOC has investigated tens of thousands of charges of pay discrimination, and through our enforcement efforts, we have obtained more than $85 million in monetary relief for those who have faced pay discrimination based on sex.

And pay discrimination has real 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 the President said on the day he signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, "Making our economy work, means making sure it works for everyone."

That's why today, the EEOC is taking a significant step forward to address pay inequality in the workplace. This morning, we published a proposal to collect pay data from all employers with 100 or more employees, including federal contractors. This is a joint effort with the Department of Labor's, Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, and it is terrific to be working closely with Secretary of Labor, Tom Perez, and OFCCP Director Pat Shiu, who are here with us today. By coordinating our efforts with DOL, this proposal promotes the efficient use of federal resources and minimizes the burden on employers. This effort is a high priority for me personally, and I know that it is for Secretary Perez and Director Shiu as well. Our intention is to finalize this proposal by September of this year.

Collecting this pay data will help fill a critical void in the information we need to ensure that American workers are not shortchanged for their hard work. The pay data will provide EEOC and OFCCP with insight into pay disparities across industries and occupations. Our agencies will use this data to more effectively focus investigations, assess complaints of discrimination, and identify existing pay disparities that may warrant further examination.

This data will also help employers evaluate their own pay practices so that they can prevent pay discrimination in their workplaces. EEOC will publish aggregate data that will help employers determine if they are paying employees fairly, and if their pay is in line with regional and industry practices. The proposed data collection will protect the privacy interests of both employers and employees. Employers will not report individual salary information about specific employees. Rather, they will report only the total number of employees by job category and demographic group who fall within 12 pay bands.

In passing Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Congress recognized the need for the EEOC to collect information to determine whether unlawful employment practices have occurred. For the past 50 years, employers have reported annually to the EEOC the number of their employees by sex, race, ethnicity, and job category. Our proposal adds information on pay data to this existing reporting structure -- which employers know as the EEO-1 form.

The Commission has identified equal pay as one of our agency's top national priorities. Before taking this step today, the EEOC commissioned independent studies and considered input from employers and employees, as well as civil rights and women's organizations. The Commission then voted to move forward on this proposal to revise the EEO-1 form. We welcome the public's input and invite comments though April 1. The Commission will consider these comments before finalizing any revisions to reporting requirements.

As Lilly Ledbetter knows too well, equal pay for equal work is long overdue. These new and important tools to prevent and combat pay discrimination, will bring us much closer to finally fulfilling the promise of equal opportunity for all.

We commend the many employers that are taking steps to evaluate their pay practices to ensure that their workers are paid fairly. And now, it is my pleasure to turn the program over to the Chairman and CEO of one such employer, Marc Benioff of Salesforce. He is a leading example of what can be accomplished with a commitment from the top to ensure equal pay across the workforce.