In September 2012, the U.S. Census Bureau released updated data on annual income for all demographics. Unfortunately, the figures show that equal pay for African-American women remains an uphill struggle. Women of color still suffer from significant pay disparities not only between men and women, but also between whites and minorities.
According to the Census, African-American women only earn 64 cents for every dollar earned by white men. African-American women earn 69.5 cents for every dollar earned by men generally. Overall, women still earn only 77 cents of every dollar earned by men.
New data on household income show the impact of wage disparities on African-American families. The median income for African-American households, $32,229, is 61.7 percent of the median income for white households, $52,214. The Census report is available here.
To eliminate this inequality, LDF seeks to strengthen civil rights laws ensuring equal pay. In a letter to the U.S. Senatethis fall, LDF renewed its support of the Paycheck Fairness Act, S. 3220. This bill would strengthen the provisions of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to address more fully the persistent wage disparities between women and men.
The legislation would ensure that women receive the same remedies for wage discrimination based on gender as those subjected to wage discrimination on the basis of race or national origin. The legislation requires that employers must show that any wage disparity is due to a business justification and stems from factors not related to gender. The legislation ensures enforcement by requiring the collection of wage data based on sex, race and national origin and by training those responsible for equal pay enforcement.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Paycheck Fairness Act by an overwhelming bipartisan majority. In the Senate, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) has introduced S. 3220, which currently has 37 co-sponsors. LDF is hopeful the Senate will pass this long overdue legislation.
LDF has been a steadfast proponent of strong equal pay laws. We were ardent supporters of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, Pub. L. No. 111-2, 123 Stat. 5 (2009), which sought to overturn the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007). The Supreme Court ruled that the statute of limitations for filing an equal pay claim began on the date the employer decided to discriminate, and not the date of the most recent unequal paycheck, which had been widely accepted by courts. Thankfully, Congress repaired the damage caused by this decision by passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Significantly, this was the first bill which President Obama signed into law. LDF attended the signing ceremony at the White House on January 29, 2009.