Obama signs order, memo aimed at closing pay gap between sexes

Windsor Genova – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Washington, DC, United States (4E) – President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed an executive order and a memorandum promoting equal pay of male and female employees.

The order signed at the White House in conjunction with Equal Pay Day prohibits federal contractors from retaliating against employees who choose to discuss their compensation. It aims to encourage pay transparency, so workers have a potential way of discovering violations of equal pay laws and are able to seek appropriate remedies.

Obama 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 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.

“America should be a level playing field, a fair race for everybody, a place where anybody who is willing to work hard has a chance to get ahead. And restoring that opportunity for every American, men and women, has to be a driving focus for our country,” Obama told about a dozen women who witnessed the signing of the order and memo.

Women compose nearly half of the American workforce but on average, full-time working women still earn 77 cents to every dollar earned by men, according to the latest U.S. Census statistics. Another recent study found that women workers in the White House make 88 cents for every dollar their male counterparts do.

Obama believes that ensuring that women earn equal pay for equal work is essential to improving the economic security of families and the growth of the middle class and economy.

The new order and memo adds to two similar presidential actions aimed at promoting fair pay regardless of gender. The president also signed in February an executive order raising the minimum wage to $10.10 for federal contract workers. The first legislation Obama signed into law after taking office was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which empowers women to recover wages lost to discrimination by extending the time period in which an employee can file a claim.

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