Pay discrimination is illegal in the United States, but women are still largely making less money than men for the same job and sometimes with even more credentials and experience. This week, Congress reintroduced the Lilly Ledbetter Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would offer employees “new tools” to achieve equal pay.
On Tuesday, House Democrats stood alongside Lilly Ledbetter, a woman’s rights activist and the namesake of the act, to reintroduce the bill originally signed by President Barack Obama in 2009, his first while stepping into his historic term.
The act, which overturned a decision by the Supreme Court that restricted the time period for employees seeking to file complaints of discrimination based on compensation, strengthens the Equal Pay Act of 1963 by allowing employees to compare salaries without retaliation and creating stricter penalties against companies that violate equal pay legislation. It would also provide training to help business owners and staff better identify pay disparities and address them.
“We implicitly recognize as women that the pay gap and wage gap is an injustice that persists through secrecy and it’s an injustice that persists to the present day,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, said at the conference, where 240 representatives co-sponsored the bill. “We cannot ask for salary history and pay people depending on their salary history anymore, because it is time that we pay people what they are worth and not how little they are desperate enough to accept.”
While women of all ages have confronted the gender pay gap, Ocasio-Cortez called it a “generational issue,” and in many ways it is, especially for Latinas. The bill would go a long way in helping the demographic, which oftentimes comes in last in regards to the pay gap. On average, Latinas earn just 53 cents for every dollar a white, non-Latinx man makes. And we’re going backwards, as the wage gap before 2018 was 54 cents — making the decades-long problem increasingly important today.
Ledbetter said that the Fair Pay Act, signed by President Kennedy, was the “first step but not the last,” because it did not offer women the tools they need to challenge the gap.
“We cannot subject another generation of women to this injustice,” Ledbetter said.