Earlier this week, we heard President Barack Obama debate domestic and foreign issues against Governor Mitt Romney of Massachusetts in the second of three debates leading up to November’s election. One of the hottest issues of the debate was equal pay. President Obama highlighted his efforts to push the Lilly Ledbetter Act through Congress and Romney highlighted his “binders full of women” and his own record of hiring women in his administration as Governor.
The debate sparked a lot of discussion, and jokes, in the days following the debate. Many seized upon the “binders” quote and turned it into a joke, though it was not quite as hilarious as the uproar over Big Bird. More important than the humor, however, is the issue of gender equality in the workplace. We’d like to highlight a few recent developments in that regard.
Is there a gender pay disparity?
Earlier this summer, we reported on a New York Times story that referenced a number of studies that showed that the gender pay gap was nearly completely gone. There is a caveat, however. The gap still exists for mothers. In short, if a woman decides to abstain from having children, and works the same hours as a man, she's statistically likely to make as much as her male counterpart. If she has children, she'll be paid less, possibly due to the time constraints of balancing motherhood with work, or possibly due to simple discrimination.
But what about doctors?
Shortly after we reported that story, another study popped up that stated that the gap wasn't closed in all professions. In perhaps the noblest of professions, doctors still have the wage gap. Female doctors are, on average, paid less than male doctors, regardless of motherhood.
The Illinois Equal Pay Act got stronger.
Last month, an amendment was made to the Illinois Equal Pay Act, which prohibits pay discrimination based on gender. In Illinois, women reportedly make $0.78 per each dollar that men make. The amendment to the act allows litigants to go after the personal assets of executives of companies that discriminate. Because of the harsh penalties provided by the statute, some unscrupulous employers were closing up shop or otherwise avoiding payment. This allows that same judgment to apply against the corporation's officers or the CEO.
What is the Lilly Ledbetter Act?
Good question. The act extended the statute of limitations for bringing a claim of wage discrimination. Previously, a claim could be made within six months of the initial wage decision (hiring). That meant if a woman did not discover the discrepancy until more than six months, she was out of luck. The Lilly Ledbetter Act changed the rule to give the woman six months from the time of her most recent paycheck to file suit. In other words, the clock restarts with each check.
- Consult a Chicago Employment Law Attorney (FindLaw)
- Equal Pay and Compensation Discrimination: Facts (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- Equal Pay and Discrimination Against Women (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- The Lilly Ledbetter Act exacerbates gender gap, discourages hiring (Collegiate Times)