Working Women, Your Paycheck Has Been Trapped in a Time Warp

Kentucky National Guard Staff Sgt. Kathleen Braithwaite removes a wheel from a M977 Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck. In the National Guard, men and women receive equal pay for equal work — as it should be.

Although spring is in the air and we are well into 2017, if you’re a woman, your paycheck is stuck in time, specifically at December 31, 2016. That’s because women — on average — earn just 80 percent of what men make, meaning that they must work until today, April 4, 2017, to earn what men earned by December 31, 2016.

Welcome to Equal Pay Day 2017: The “holiday” we would prefer not to celebrate.

But wait, there’s more bad news. The “Equal Pay Day” for women of color is even worse: African-American women’s wages won’t catch up to men’s 2016 earnings until July 31, Native American women until September 25, and Latina women until November 2.

Pay discrimination on the basis of sex has been illegal since the Equal Pay Act was enacted in 1963 — a prohibition that became broader under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Yet the gap between men’s and women’s earnings remains. Multiple factors contribute to the gender wage gap. They include:

  • Lower wages: Some employers still pay women less for the same job — in violation of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII.
  • Lack of transparency: Surveys show as many as half of employers have policies that punish their employees who discuss their salaries, a lack of transparency that prevents women from even knowing when they are paid less than their male counterparts.
  • Salary history: Women may be hired at lower starting salaries than their male peers because an employer bases those decisions on the pay earned at the applicant’s last job, perpetuating prior inequalities.
  • Occupational segregation: “Women’s jobs” — such as retail, administrative work, child care, and teaching — are undervalued and paid less than traditional “men’s jobs,” such as law enforcement, manufacturing, and the skilled trades.
  • Pregnancy discrimination: Women who become pregnant face economic penalties — from outright job loss to being forced onto unpaid leave because their jobs are physically strenuous and they are denied simple job modifications that would enable them to continue working.
  • Lack of paid family leave: Women with family care obligations — for a new child or an elderly parent — lose income during periods of unpaid family care leave. Sometimes they even lose their jobs because their employers don’t provide any leave time at all.

To close the gender wage gap, policy makers and employers must address each of these factors.

The ACLU is working at both the federal and state level to pass legislation to do precisely that. Today members of Congress are reintroducing the Paycheck Fairness Act, which updates the Equal Pay Act, prohibits employers from penalizing employees who discuss their salaries, and bars employers from asking about prior salary. The FAMILY Act, legislation providing for paid family leave, has already been introduced, and the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, requiring employers to accommodate pregnant workers, will be introduced in the coming months.

Advocates in the states are equally active on women’s economic equality initiatives including equal pay, paid family leave, and pregnancy and breastfeeding accommodations. In the past two years, lawmakers in more than half the states have introduced equal pay bills that promote pay transparency, close loopholes in employers’ defenses, broaden the criteria under which a woman’s job will be considered comparable to a man’s when assessing equal pay violations, and bar the use of prior salary to set current pay. In addition, in the past few years, 18 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws granting pregnant employees the right to accommodations at work. The majority of these have passed overwhelmingly with bipartisan support.

The ACLU, along with our coalition partners at the federal and state levels, including members of the Equal Pay Today! Campaign, are fighting hard in support of these bills. And of course, we will continue using existing anti-discrimination laws to fight pay inequity in all its forms in the courts. Through such litigation, and by mobilizing people power in support of these measures, we can work toward the day when we wipe Equal Pay Day right off the calendar — and into the pages of the history books, where it belongs.

Add a comment (24)
Read the Terms of Use

Barack Insane Obama

Boo hoo hoo. get over you bunch of liberal nuts. Women get exactly what they deserve.I'm sorry if men are physically stronger and can actually do more work. it's a shame I will not return to this to read the crybaby comments posted by sissy liberals

Anonymous

Wow... Just wow. You took the effort to come to an article just too parade your sexism around. Seriously, I congratulate you for having soooo much time on your hands. Get a life bro.

Nasty Woman

Seriously? While you were off writing this ridiculous comment, did you ever think once about how women all over the planet have fought and died for their *human* rights, fighting against prejudice, against all the men that told them to sit down and be quiet? Did you ever think about how the things that you pride yourself on- being "stronger", being "able to do more work"- are all ancient stereotypes that you're spoon feeding yourself? Women have sent people to space. They've become political figures. They've become educators, and doctors, and engineers. Women have changed the world. So go ahead and praise all the so- called "strength" that you use to paint over men who think they're above women, because no matter how hard you may try to change the minds of women everywhere, the world knows who its heroes are.

Nasty Woman

Seriously? While you were off writing this ridiculous comment, did you ever think once about how women all over the planet have fought and died for their *human* rights, fighting against prejudice, against all the men that told them to sit down and be quiet? Did you ever think about how the things that you pride yourself on- being "stronger", being "able to do more work"- are all ancient stereotypes that you're spoon feeding yourself? Women have sent people to space. They've become political figures. They've become educators, and doctors, and engineers. Women have changed the world. So go ahead and praise all the so- called "strength" that you use to paint over men who think they're above women, because no matter how hard you may try to change the minds of women everywhere, the world knows who its heroes are.

Beth

So what's your plan?? Transparent pay rates within companies just like the government? What about privacy laws? Does everyone want their wages open to the public? Isn't that a slippery slope? I agree its a problem as I have been subject to it, but WHAT exactly is the plan besides whining and parades?

Anonymous

You can't negotiate wages fairly if you don't know what the competition is being paid. Some employers demand to know what the prior employer paid. That leaves all the cards with the boss.

SSG Kat Braithwaite

I believe in equal pay for women and men. There is a wage gap, but not in the US military. This is a picture of ME from an article talking about bygone stereotypes in the military. I support a lot of things the ACLU fights for, but This is false representation of the military. I would not have my job as a mechanic if it wasn't for the army.

Nicole

I was gonna say....the issue is a real one, but not in the U.S. Army. Terrible picture choice. You look bad ass, though.

Matthew Harwood

Hi SSG Kat Braithwaite, I should have included a caption to this photo stating that the National Guard believes in equal pay for equal work. We chose the picture because as Nicole rightly says, “You look badass.” We’ve included a caption clarifying the matter, and I apologize. By not including the caption, we inadvertently expressed the opposite of what was intended. Sincerely, Matt Harwood Senior Writer/Editor

Madison

This was really good information and it helped me a lot with my school reaserch paper.

Pages

Sign Up for Breaking News