Obama Pushes For Paycheck Fairness Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- President Barack Obama and White House staffers were on a PR campaign today to push for the Paycheck Fairness Act which Congress will have a chance to vote upon tomorrow.

"Women still earn just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.  It's worse for African American women and Latinas.  Over the course of her career a woman with a college degree is going to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars less than a man who is doing the same work," President Obama said during a conference call today.  "So at a time when we're in a make-or-break moment for the middle class, Congress has to step up and do its job.  If Congress passes the Paycheck Fairness Act, women are going to have access to more tools to claim equal pay for equal work.  If they don't, if Congress doesn’t act, then women are still going to have difficulty enforcing and pressing for this basic principle."

The controversial Paycheck Fairness Act amends the portion of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) known as the Equal Pay Act to revise remedies for, enforcement of, and exceptions to prohibitions against sex discrimination in the payment of wages. Revises the exception to the prohibition for a wage rate differential based on any other factor other than sex. Limits such factors to bona fide factors, such as education, training, or experience. States that the bona fide factor defense shall apply only if the employer demonstrates that such factor: (1) is not based upon or derived from a sex-based differential in compensation; (2) is job-related with respect to the position in question; and (3) is consistent with business necessity. Avers that such defense shall not apply where the employee demonstrates that: (1) an alternative employment practice exists that would serve the same business purpose without producing such differential; and (2) the employer has refused to adopt such alternative practice. Revises the prohibition against employer retaliation for employee complaints. 

The Paycheck Fairness Act would make employers who violate sex discrimination prohibitions liable in a civil action for either compensatory or (except for the federal government) punitive damages. States that any action brought to enforce the prohibition against sex discrimination may be maintained as a class action in which individuals may be joined as party plaintiffs without their written consent. Authorizes the Secretary of Labor (Secretary) to seek additional compensatory or punitive damages in a sex discrimination action. 

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has opposed the Paycheck Fairness Act and similar versions of the bill in recent years because it would "expand remedies under EPA to include unlimited punitive and compensatory damages, significantly erode employer defenses for legitimate pay disparities, and impose invalid tools for enforcement by the Labor Department."

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