President issues executive order prohibiting retaliation against employees of federal contractors who discuss salary

BY RAMONA DU HOUX

April 8th, 2014

“When women succeed, America succeeds,” said President Obama at a executive order singing event for equal pay at the White House. Women compose nearly half of the American workforce – yet, according to the latest U.S. Census statistics, on average, full-time working women still earn 77 cents to every dollar earned by men.

On Equal Pay Day, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree welcomed the executive order by President Obama that bans retaliation against employees of federal contractors who discuss their salaries. Pingree and female colleagues in the House had written to Obama in January urging him to issue such an order.

One of the first bills that Pingree voted for in Congress—and the first that President Obama signed—was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The law makes it easier for women to recover lost wages to discrimination. At the executive order bill singing Ledbetter said many women still don’t know that discrimination is happening. Ledbetter only found out about the discrepancy in her pay when co-worker sent her a note saying she was getting paid less. After that Ledbetter went to court and it was disclosed that a man in her same job had earned over 200,000 more than she did during the same time period. But the court also said she was too late filing the lawsuit against her employer. That provision is gone due to the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

“Despite the strides we’ve made in recent years, women continue to earn 21 percent less than their male counterparts for doing the same work in Maine,” said Congressman Mike Michaud. “I was proud to pass legislation in Maine more than a decade ago instituting Equal Pay Day. We’re reminded today that more still needs to be done to ensure women are receiving equal pay as men. It’s unbelievable that women who do the same jobs as men stand to make substantially less money – just because of their gender. Both women and men serve as breadwinners for families, and both women and men face the same financial obligations and challenges. It’s time for us to take action that corrects this inequity once and for all.”

Michaud is running for Maine Governor against Gov. Paul LePage and Independent Elliot Cutlar.

“Wage discrimination is still a problem in the workplace but many women may not even know they are making less than their male counterparts. Nearly half of all workers in the country are either prohibited or strongly discouraged from discussing their pay,” said Pingree. “If you don’t know you are being discriminated against, it’s impossible to do something about it.”

In January, Pingree and over 50 of her female colleagues in the House wrote to President Obama asking him to issue a federal order banning retaliation against employees of federal contractors who discuss their pay. The President will that order at a ceremony at the White House this morning.

“In Maine, women still make only 79 cents for every dollar their male counterparts earn,” said Pingree. “That’s not just a women’s issue, it’s a family issue. “Families increasingly rely on women’s wages to make ends meet. When women bring home less money each day, it means they have less for the everyday needs of their families—groceries, rent, child care, doctors’ visits.”

Pingree has sponsored and been a strong supporter of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which strengthens and closes loopholes in the 1963 Equal Pay Act. It provides effective remedies to women who are not being paid equal pay for equal work. The bill passed twice while Democrats controlled the House, but in this session of Congress Republican leaders have refused to allow it to come up for a vote. Nearly 200 members of the House have signed a petition demanding that the bill be brought up for a vote.

The President also signed a Presidential Memorandum instructing the Secretary of Labor to establish new regulations requiring federal contractors to submit to the Department of Labor summary data on compensation paid to their employees, including data by sex and race. The Department of Labor will use the data to encourage compliance with equal pay laws and to target enforcement more effectively by focusing efforts where there are discrepancies and reducing burdens on other employers.