WASHINGTON – D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton has introduced a bill that would push businesses to close the gap between wages paid to men and women for comparable jobs.
Women earn about 72 cents for every male-earned dollar, the D.C. Democrat said.
“Why an emergency service operator, a female, should be paid less than a fire dispatcher, a male-dominated occupation,” is a question the Fair Pay Act would work to eliminate, Norton said.
Employees could question work place pay scales, forcing their bosses to explain differences in salaries paid for female- dominated jobs that require comparable skills and education as male-dominated jobs, Norton said Thursday when she introduced the bill.
Employees could then take action against employers who violate the bill’s tenets, either through the courts or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Of the 35 congressmen already signed on as supporting the bill, Rep. Constance A. Morella is the only Marylander and the only Republican. Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, a Democrat, has signed on as a supporter of a similar bill introduced in the Senate.
Carmen Pate, spokeswoman for the conservative group Concerned Women for America, called Norton’s bill “ridiculous.” She said it was totally unacceptable to have the government regulating wages in a free-market economy.
Not only that, Pate argued, there is no wage disparity between women and men.
“Women are not discriminated against on pay,” she said. “Large numbers of women choose not to move up in their companies because they would rather put more time into their family. Often feminists do not take this into consideration.”
Morella, who introduced a bill earlier this year that would place a market value on women’s housework, said women are indeed discriminated against.
And, Morella said, the bill would simply amend a law written in the 1960s, the Equal Pay Act, which required employers to provide equal pay to people doing the same jobs, regardless of gender or race. Norton’s bill would identify comparable types of jobs that should be paid equally.
Mikulski said in a written statement the bill is important because the lack of potential earning power adversely affects women’s “standard of living and … their retirement.”
The bill is supported by the National Committee on Pay Equity, which was created in 1979. The committee, a coalition of women’s groups, civil rights organizations and unions, measures median wages of men and women living in the United States and pushes for equity.
This is the fourth time Norton has introduced her bill since being elected to office in 1990. No committee hearings have been scheduled.
Meanwhile, Senate Democratic Leader Thomas A. Daschle of South Dakota has introduced a complimentary bill, the Paycheck Fairness Act. Daschle’s bill would allow women and minorities to sue employers for damages associated with wage discrimination, and add $36 million for enforcement to the EEOC budget of $236 million. -30-