The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Thursday, March 11, holds a hearing, "A Fair Share for All: Pay Equity in the New American Workplace." The hearing marks the re-emergence of the Paycheck Fairness Act in Congress, in this case, S.182, to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) known as the Equal Pay Act to increase liability and penalties for gender-based wage discrimination. For example, the bill:
- Makes employers who violate sex discrimination prohibitions liable in a civil action for either compensatory or (except for the federal government) punitive damages.
- States that any action brought to enforce the prohibition against sex discrimination may be maintained as a class action in which individuals may be joined as party plaintiffs without their written consent.
- Authorizes the Secretary of Labor (Secretary) to seek additional compensatory or punitive damages in a sex discrimination action.
The House passed its own version, H.R. 12, along with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act on Jan. 9, 2009. The House sponsor, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), is the first witness at Thursday's hearing, which also includes testimony from an economist from the Center for American Progress, as well as Deborah Frett, CEO of the Business and Professional Women's Foundation, who contends women are underrepresented in "green jobs." We hope to hear the employers' perspective from Jane McFetridge, the managing partner of Jackson Lewis' Chicago office.
The 2008 presidential and congressional campaigns featured impassioned activism tied to the Ledbetter legislation, and the new push for the Paycheck Fairness Act comes just as that kind of political enthusiasm is needed for the 2010 elections.