Federal officials to collect equal-pay data from large businesses – Los Angeles Times

The Obama administration said Friday it would require businesses with at least 100 employees to submit detailed pay data by gender, race and ethnicity in an effort to find firms that are “unlawfully shortchanging workers.”

A main focus of the new rules, which would take effect Sept. 30, 2017, was to advance efforts to ensure women are paid the same as men for doing the same job, as required by federal law.

The White House said that the median annual wage for a woman working full time was $39,600, 79% the median wage for a man, though some critics have said that generalized figure overstates the difference.

Though the gap has “narrowed slightly” the past two years, it is still too wide, the White House said.

“What kind of example does paying women less set for our sons and daughters?” President Obama said in discussing the action at a White House ceremony celebrating the seventh anniversary of his signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. 

The legislation made it easier for workers to challenge what they view as unfair pay.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce criticized the new reporting requirement as too burdensome.

But Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, said the Obama administration’s action was “a big step forward.”

“An awful lot of times, people will say there is no income gap. There is, and we know there is,” she said. “It is extremely important to have that concrete data by occupation and by region of the country. We have been fighting for that for a long time.”

Women’s rights activists have been pushing to gather such data since the late 1960s, Smeal said.

Among those who will be celebrating Friday is Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who as the first woman to chair the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, during the Carter administration, had pushed unsuccessfully to require companies to report the pay statistics.

The federal action comes after California last fall enacted a tough law to ensure that men and women who perform “substantially similar” work receive equal pay.

Friday’s move expands on a 2014 executive order that the Labor Department collect wage data by gender, race and ethnicity from federal contractors.

Now the EEOC proposes that all employers with at least 100 workers submit the data across 10 job categories and 12 pay ranges on a form they already are required to submit annually that includes employment data by gender, race and ethnicity.

Specific salaries would not have to be reported, and the data is not public.

The data would be analyzed by the EEOC to better focus investigations into unlawful pay practices, the White House said.

Administration officials also hope that the data requirement will “encourage and facilitate greater voluntary compliance by employers with existing federal pay laws,” the White House said.

Randy Johnson, senior vice president of labor, immigration and employee benefits at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said the Obama administration move was a “fishing expedition to support a political agenda divorced from the facts.”

“While we strongly support nondiscrimination in compensation, the type of reporting proposed by the administration today would place unnecessary and onerous burdens on employers while providing no meaningful insight as to whether employer pay practices are discriminatory,” he said.

jim.puzzanghera@latimes.com

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