TAKE ACTION Send President Obama a message on Equal Pay Day: Urge him to issue an executive order that will protect employees of federal contractors against retaliation for disclosing or asking about their wages. This action will especially benefit women, who are frequently paid less than their male counterparts. Send your message today -- Equal Pay Day -- which marks the date into 2012 that women on average must work to equal the same pay men received in 2011. And don't worry -- you can continue to send messages after April 17.
Retaliation Perpetuates Gender Wage Gap - Wage secrecy is one way that employers perpetuate the practice of paying women and people of color less. It has been standard at most business establishments to discourage and even punish employees who ask for comparative salary information or who discuss their compensation with others.
Lilly Ledbetter Case an Example - For much of her career, Lilly Ledbetter -- the Alabama woman who has become an icon for fair pay -- had no idea that the men at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company who held the same positions as she were receiving much higher salaries. Company-imposed secrecy about salaries helped perpetuate the clearly illegal pay disparity. Ledbetter sued, won a lower court judgment compensating her for 19 years of pay discrimination, but lost every cent under the conservative-majority Supreme Court. The court told Ledbetter she should have filed a complaint of pay discrimination within 180 days of her first unfair paycheck -- even though her employer's wage secrecy kept her in the dark about the pay disparity, and she might have lost her job if she had even asked about others' salaries.
It took a new federal law, known as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, to undo the Supreme Court's preposterous ruling. But while the act allows women to sue when they discover they have been underpaid, it does not end the unfair practice of pay secrecy. The proposed executive order would be a step in the right direction.
Comprehensive Legislation Still Needed - The Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 1519/S. 797) would prohibit retaliation and require disclosure of compensation data from private sector employers, but has little chance of passage in the current Congress. But the president does have it within his power to issue an executive order assuring that employees of federal contractors are not unfairly discriminated against in compensation or punished for discussing their salaries.