FAQs on Equal Pay Day
Today is Equal Pay Day, the day when women finally catch up to what their male counterparts made the previous year. As part of our participation in today's blogging campaign, here are a few Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers!) about fair pay, what Reform Judaism has to say on the issue and what YOU can do:
What is the wage gap?
The wage gap is the difference between a man's and a woman's wages after all other factors have been controlled. In 1963, women earned approximately 59 cents for every dollar earned by men. Although the wage gap has narrowed considerably since the Equal Pay Act was signed that year, women still earn, on average, 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.
Why does the wage gap still exist?
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 made it illegal for employers to pay their female workers less for the same work done by men. But the law contains significant loopholes that make it difficult for women to learn that they're being paid less, challenge this discrimination and eventually force their employers to change their pay practices.
What does Reform Judaism have to say about fair pay?
Jewish tradition has long recognized the importance of paying fair wages. Leviticus 19:13 commands, "You shall not defraud your neighbor, nor rob him; the wages of he who is hired shall not remain with you all night until the morning." Judaism also teaches that all human beings should be treated equally because they are created b'tselem elohim, in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).
What is being done to ensure fair pay?
All three branches of government--executive, legislative and judicial--are currently involved in the effort to ensure fair pay. The first bill President Obama signed into law was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which restores the rights of employees who have suffered pay discrimination by clarifying the current statute to allow employers to be sued every time they issue a discriminatory paycheck. This legislation was a critical first step in ensuring fair pay for women in the workplace, and the Obama administration has continued to push for fair pay by supporting Congress' efforts to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Paycheck Fairness Act, which is being reintroduced today in recognition of Equal Pay, would close the loopholes in the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and give women the same tools to fight pay discrimination as those available to employees subjected to discrimination based on race or national origin. As for the third branch of government, the U.S. Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in Wal-Mart v. Dukes to determine whether current and former female employees of Wal-Mart should be allowed to proceed with their class action lawsuit alleging pay and promotion discrimination. A decision is expected in early summer.
What can I do?
Send an email to your Members of Congress and urge them to co-sponsor the Paycheck Fairness Act. You can also call their offices through the Capitol Switchboard, which can be reached at 202.224.3121. Then join faith communities nationwide by taking action on this issue the weekend after Equal Pay Day, April 15-17. It can be as simple as coordinating a letter-writing campaign in your congregation or requesting "equal pay" stickers and other sample materials. Contact me via email or at 202.387.2800 for more information.