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Statement on Equal Pay Day April 8, 2014

Jacqueline A. Berrien, Chair
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Tuesday, April 8, 2014 is Equal Pay Day: The day when the average woman's earnings finally catch up to the average man's earnings from the previous year.  This means that the average woman has to work approximately 15 months - more than 90 days into 2014 - to match what her male counterpart earned in 12 months of 2013.  A half-century after the passage of antidiscrimination in employment laws and the creation of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the persistence of this wage gap between men and women is distressing.  In 1963, the gender pay gap stood at 59 cents on the dollar - that is, women earned 59 cents for every dollar a man earned.  In the first two decades after the EPA's passage, the gender wage gap narrowed significantly, but progress has since stagnated.  Today, the average woman in the United States earns about 23 cents less on the dollar than the average man, and recent research has shown that, even when factors like professional specialization, hours worked, and educational and experience levels are held constant, women still earn less than men.  At the rate we're going, it will be another 50 years before we eliminate the gender pay gap.  The nation cannot afford to wait that long.

Even in the 21st century, qualified women are sometimes excluded from job opportunities in the trades, construction, transportation, and other male-dominated industries and are instead more likely than men to work in part-time, low wage jobs with no benefits.  Women make up 55 percent of workers in minimum wage jobs, and a full-time minimum wage job pays about $15,000 per year.  Seventy-two percent of workers in predominantly tipped occupations, such as food service - where workers earn 40 percent less on average than other hourly workers - are women. 

To address these issues, EEOC is committed to full enforcement of Title VII and the Equal Pay Act and is addressing unlawful exclusion of women from employment and depression of their earnings through job segregation.  In 2011, the EEOC's Chicago District Office filed suit against a company that failed to hire a single woman - ever - despite having received numerous applications from women qualified and eager to be hired for positions as miners.  In 2013, the EEOC's Baltimore Field Office sued a company for refusing to hire women as truck drivers, yard jockeys, warehouse supervisors, meat cutters, or fork lift operators.  Our suit alleges that senior vice presidents and managers within the company regularly made comments discouraging lower level managers from hiring women.  While shocking, these cases serve as a reminder that the work of forcing open doors and shattering glass ceilings for women in male-dominated occupations remains unfinished.   

Throughout the United States, the EEOC is working to ensure that men and women are paid equally for their work in the same jobs, and to enforce the anti-retaliation provisions that protect workers who assert their rights under the law.  From the inception of the National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force in 2010 through the end of Fiscal Year 2013, the EEOC received approximately 10,000 sex-based wage charges accounting for 45 percent of the charges filed with the EEOC for wage discrimination.  Through administrative enforcement alone (investigations, mediations, and conciliations), the EEOC has recovered over $85 million for victims of sex-based wage discrimination since the launch of the Equal Pay Task Force in 2010.  The EEOC has made sex-based wage discrimination a national enforcement priority with the 2012 adoption of our Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).  In Fiscal Year 2013, the Commission filed five cases involving claims of sex-based wage discrimination, including one filed in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Justice.  So far in Fiscal Year 2014, EEOC has resolved two cases involving sex-based wage discrimination - one on behalf of a teacher who EEOC and the U.S. Department of Justice alleged was unlawfully paid less than her male counterpart, and another on behalf of a class of women cashiers and sandwich makers employed by a fast food restaurant who EEOC alleged were paid less than their male counterparts, in violation of federal law. 

This Equal Pay Day, the Administration demonstrated its continued commitment to eradicating the pay gap through two important actions.  Today, President Obama signed an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees who choose to discuss their compensation.  The Executive Order does not require workers to share information about their pay, nor does it require employers to publish their pay data.  But it does give workers the freedom to discuss pay without fear of retaliation, which will give them a better chance of knowing if they are being paid in a way that reflects gender or other bias.  The President also signed a Presidential Memorandum instructing the Secretary of Labor to establish new regulations requiring federal contractors to submit data on compensation paid to their employees, by sex and race, to the U.S. Department of Labor - one of our partners on the Equal Pay Task Force. 

As we commemorate Equal Pay Day 2014, I look forward to the day when the gender pay gap is relegated to the history books and there will no longer be a need to observe the date when women's earnings catch up to men's.  I look forward to the day when our nation rewards our daughters' talents and hard work in equal measure to those of our sons.  Until that day, the dedicated men and women of the EEOC will continue to uphold the law's simple requirement of equal pay for equal work.