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Obama to Sign Order Strengthening Equal Pay Rules

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and Lilly Ledbetter

In a move to boost wage equality and help close the wage gap between men and women (about 23 cents on the dollar), President Barack Obama will issue an executive order tomorrow that will apply some provisions of the Paycheck Fairness Act to federal contractors. The order, according to news reports, will be signed at a White House ceremony marking Equal Pay Day, which signifies how far a woman must work into 2014 to earn the same as a man did in 2013 alone.

The order will ban federal contractors from retaliating against workers who inquire about or disclose information about employers' wage practices. In other words, workers can talk to each other to help determine if there is a wage difference between men and women doing the same work.  

The order also will require federal contractors to provide data to the Department of Labor about their employees' pay along with their race and gender. Heather Boushey, executive director and chief economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, told the Associated Press:

This really is about giving people access to more information, both to help them make decisions at the policy level but also for individuals.

This is the third wage-related executive action Obama has taken this year. In February, he signed an executive order requiring federal contractors to pay a minimum wage of $10.10 an hour—the same rate as contained in minimum wage legislation in Congress now. Last month, he told the Labor Department to begin updating overtime eligibility rules to restore overtime protection that salaried workers have lost to inflation since 1975.

Also, the Senate is expected to vote Tuesday or Wednesday on the Paycheck Fairness. Along with provisions in Obama’s executive order, the legislation closes loopholes and strengthens current equal pay laws, including strengthening penalties that courts may impose for equal pay violations. The bill also would require employers to show pay disparity is truly related to job performance—not gender.

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