Chair of the White House Middle Class Task Force, Vice President Biden said: “Women make up nearly half of all workers on U.S. payrolls, and two-thirds of families with children are headed either by two working parents or by a single parent who works. Yet, the workplace has, for the most part, not changed to reflect these realities – and it must. Closing the gender pay gap, helping parents keep their jobs while balancing family responsibilities, and increasing workplace flexibility – these are not only women’s issues, they are issues of middle class economic security.”
To implement President Obama’s pledge in the State of the Union address to crack down on violations of equal pay laws, the Administration created the National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force, bringing together the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), the Department of Labor (“DOL”), and the Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”).
Although a number of laws exist to address equal pay enforcement, the Task Force has identified five persistent challenges in this area, made recommendations to address each challenge, and developed an action plan to implement those recommendations. The recommendations from the National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force are as follows:
1. Improve interagency coordination and enforcement efforts to maximize effectiveness of existing authorities.
2. Collect data on the private workforce to better understand the scope of the pay gap and target enforcement efforts.
3. Undertake a public education campaign to educate employers on their obligations and employees on their rights.
4. Implement a strategy to improve the federal government’s role as a model employer.
5. Work with Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.
To read more about this set of recommendations and action plan, please click here.
The White House Council on Women and Girls also announced the White House’s launch of a Work-Flex Event Starter Kit to encourage greater dialogue around workplace flexibility at the community level and bring people together to start making changes. Employees, businesses, and universities are encouraged to use the Event Starter Kit to host a discussion in their own community about how innovative workplace flexibility policies can help employees balance work and family responsibilities, while simultaneously improving employers’ bottom lines.To view the White House’s Work-Flex Event Starter Kit, please click here.
At the event, the Vice President was joined by Attorney General Eric Holder, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis, Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett, White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes, and Chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Jacqueline Berrien. Lilly Ledbetter, the namesake of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act signed by President Obama to fight pay discrimination and ensure fundamental fairness to American workers, introduced the Vice President.
The Department of Justice: Attorney General Eric Holder pledged that the Department of Justice and other enforcement agencies will coordinate and collaborate through investigations, litigation, policy guidance, data analysis, and public education efforts to make meaningful progress in closing the wage gap. Already, the Justice Department, in conjunction with the EEOC and four of its district offices, has launched a robust and intensive pilot program to coordinate the investigation and litigation of charges against state and local government employers. The Department is also coordinating with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs to better enforce the laws that protect the civil rights of employees of federal contractors. The Attorney General recommitted the Department of Justice to these critical efforts and to ensuring equal opportunity and equal treatment in the workplace. For more information, please visit: http://www.justice.gov/.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: The EEOC committed to engage in increased outreach and education to improve awareness of wage discrimination laws; evaluate wage data collection needs and current capabilities, working in concert with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) to avoid duplicative data collection efforts; work with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to improve the federal government’s status as a model employer; and work with the Department of Labor and the Department of Justice to improve interagency coordination toward enforcement of our nation’s wage discrimination laws. For more information, please visit: http://www.eeoc.gov/.
The Department of Labor: Through a collaborative effort between the Departments of Labor, Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Administration will ensure strategic enforcement of pay discrimination cases. In addition to hiring nearly 200 more enforcement staff, DOL will publish an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking early next year. The ANPRM will seek input from stakeholders on how the Equal Opportunity survey can be improved. The Labor Department will also launch new public education efforts, including an Equal Pay Checklist, a revamping of the Equal Pay Employer Self-Audit tool, and hosting an Equal Pay Research Summit.
To address issues related to work/family balance, the Labor Department will conduct a new Family and Medical Leave Act survey in 2011. The survey will provide needed insights into how families use leave. In addition to baseline data collection, the survey will also provide information on regulatory changes including a recent administrative interpretation of the FMLA. In 2011, DOL intends to sponsor a supplement to the American Time Use Survey.
The data collection will be designed to gather more information on parental leave, child care responsibilities, family leave insurance program usage, and other issues related to the intersection of work and family responsibilities. Building on the White House’s Flexibility Forum, the Department will also host a series of “National Dialogue on Workplace Flexibility” forums across the country. For more information about the U.S. Labor Department’s pay equity and workplace flexibility initiatives, please visit: http://www.dol.gov/.
President Obama made the following remarks earlier today:
"In America today, women make up half of the workforce, and two-thirds of American families with children rely on a woman’s wages as a significant portion of their families’ income.
Yet, even in 2010, women make only 77 cents for every dollar that men earn. The gap is even more significant for working women of color, and it affects women across all education levels. As Vice President Biden and the Middle Class Task Force will discuss today, this is not just a question of fairness for hard-working women. Paycheck discrimination hurts families who lose out on badly needed income. And with so many families depending on women's wages, it hurts the American economy as a whole. In difficult economic times like these, we simply cannot afford this discriminatory burden.
My Administration has already begun to address this problem. In my first week in office, I signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which helps women who face wage discrimination recover their lost wages, and in my State of the Union Address, I promised to crack down on violations of equal pay laws. Today the Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force will present its recommendations, which include ways to better coordinate among enforcement agencies and inform employees about their rights. These steps support women, and they also support businesses that are doing the right thing and paying their employees what they deserve."