House Passes Bill to Close Gender Pay Gap, But Louisiana Reps Mostly Vote No

April 16, 2002, Congresswoman Pelosi speaking at a rally in support of the Paycheck Fairness Act hosted by the National Committee on Pay Equity. Credit: Nancy Pelosi Flickr

On Wednesday, Democrats easily passed the Paycheck Fairness Act by a vote of 235 to 187. This bill is intended to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 in order to prevent wage discrimination on the basis of sex.

“Despite the enactment of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, many women continue to earn significantly lower pay than men for equal work,” the bill states. “After controlling for educational attainment, occupation, industry, union status, race, ethnicity, and labor force experience, roughly 40 percent of the pay gap remains unexplained.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the gender pay gap has remained relatively the same since 2004, with women earning roughly 80 percent of what men do for performing the same work in the same job position. While some blame this gap on the choice of many women to have families, the Bureau found that weekly earnings for mothers of children under 18 were around $777, and weekly earnings for women without children were under 18 were slightly less, around $767.

Seven Republicans joined House Democrats in voting to approve this bill; unfortunately, none of them were from Louisiana. Representatives Steve Scalise (1st District), Clay Higgins (3rd District), Mike Johnson (4th District), Ralph Abraham (5th District), and Garret Graves (6th District) all voted against the measure. Only the 2nd District’s Democratic Representative Cedric Richmond voted to approve.

This isn’t the first time that this bill has been passed in the House. The last time was in 2009, where it failed in the Senate the next year. Democrats are hoping that the momentum of women elected to Congress in 2018, as well as the #MeToo movement, can help give this bill a better chance in the Senate this time around.

One major provision of this bill is that it would ban employers from asking candidates how much they made in previous jobs. It would also prevent employers from prohibiting employees from discussing their salary information, making it much easier for women (and all employees) to find out if they’re being underpaid. Additionally, employers would have to share salary information with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which would be keeping watch for potential discrimination.

As you can imagine, the bill has gotten major pushback from corporations who aren’t fond of the new restrictions and rules, particularly regarding the salary data.

This is the 11th time that Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) has introduced this bill; the first was in 1997. The difference this time, is that the national conversation regarding equal pay for equal work has changed. High profile actresses and other celebrities are speaking out about the lack of equal pay in Hollywood. The rise of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have more women speaking openly about problems such as sexual discrimination as well as sexual harassment. And, of course, there are now more women serving in Congress than ever before.

In other words, it’s time.

Jenn Bentley is a writer and editor originally from Cadiz, Kentucky. Her writing has been featured in publications such as The Examiner, The High Tech Society, FansShare, Yahoo News, and others. When she’s not writing or editing, Jenn spends her time raising money for Extra Life and advocating for autism awareness. Follow her on Twitter: @JennBentley_

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