First Victory for Women and Working Families in the 111th Congress: House Passes Two Pay Fairness Bills

“It’s a one-two punch for women, that could knock out many pay inequities,” said NOW President Kim Gandy as the U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills today that would advance fair pay for women. In a vote of 247-171 the House passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (HR 11) to address the setback delivered by the U.S. Supreme Court last year for women victims of pay discrimination, and in a 256-163 vote they passed the Paycheck Fairness Act (HR 12).

Thanks to the leadership of Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and George Miller (D-Calif.), these bills were on the schedule for the opening days of the 111th Congress and serve as an encouraging sign for things to come. Women voted overwhelmingly to elect President-elect Barack Obama, who said during his presidential campaign that he would make pay equity a priority in his administration. Women voters also helped to elect a Congress that is more women-friendly than it has been in over a decade. We have worked for and have been waiting for this day in the House.

The Ledbetter legislation, which was blocked in the Republican-led Senate last year, will essentially reverse the Supreme Court decision that requires workers to file charges on a pay discrimination claim within the first six months of receiving their first discriminatory paycheck. The Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear gave employers the go-ahead to discriminate as long as they weren’t caught in the first six months after the onset of their illegal actions.

The companion bill, the Paycheck Fairness Act, which did not even make it to the Senate floor last year, closes loopholes that allow employers to pay men and women discriminatorily and provides consequences.

“NOW has been working since our founding over 40 years ago to end wage discrimination against women. We celebrate this day and look forward to the Senate’s upcoming vote on both bills,” said Gandy. The bills will go as a package to the Senate and Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised that “pay equity” legislation is at the top of his to-do list.

While NOW is proud of the House for today’s bipartisan victory, we are reminded that this is just the beginning. We will look to the courts to honor and enforce the equal pay and civil rights laws that protect women workers. We will continue to work with the new Congress to ensure that women’s economic security and employment opportunities are included in any stimulus package, that paid sick days and paid leave for caregivers become a reality, and that our minimum wage is a livable wage, especially for women who manage families as the sole wage earner.

In addition, we will be working with the Obama administration and Secretary of Labor-designate Hilda Solis to ensure that the U.S. Department of Labor once again fulfills its mission to represent the interests of working people. Statistics on women’s work and women workers must again be collected, and overtime pay, comp time regulations and family leave policies need to be reviewed and strengthened.

We thank the House for passage of the two bills, but now all eyes will be on the Senate where we expect a bipartisan majority to pass the House bills and send them to the President for his signature. We cannot wait another forty years.


Contact: Caitlin Gullickson, media[at], 202-628-8669 ext 123