Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘gender pay discrimination’

4 actresses call out E! for gender discrimination — while live on E!

Tuesday, January 9th, 2018

On the red carpet at the Golden Globes, actress Debra Messing called out E! News for gender pay discrimination, while being interviewed on E! News.

Messing was discussing the purpose of the “Time’s Up” campaign, an initiative started by “prominent actresses and female agents, writers, directors, producers and entertainment executives” to fight systemic gender inequality. Pay equality, Messing said, was an important part of that effort. Then she turned her attention to E!.

“I was so shocked to hear that E! doesn’t believe in paying their female cohost the same as their male cohost. I miss Catt Sadler. So we stand with her. And that’s something that can change tomorrow. We want people to start having this conversation that women are just as valuable as men,” Messing said.

Sadler recently announced she would leave E! News when she discovered her male co-host earned double her salary.

Last month, ThinkProgress reported on Sadler’s decision:

In a post on her personal blog, Sadler wrote she discovered the pay discrepancy while negotiating the contract with the network. She had suspected a pay disparity existed after an executive brought it to her attention, but had no idea just how large the gap was. Her co-host Jason Kennedy was earning close to double what Sadler made for what she describes as “doing essentially similar jobs, if not the same job.”

“Know your worth. I have two decades experience in broadcasting and started at the network the very same year as my close friend and colleague that I adore. I so lovingly refer to him as my ‘tv husband’ and I mean it,” wrote Sadler in her statement. “But how can I operate with integrity and stay on at E if they’re not willing to pay me the same as him? Or at least come close? How can I accept an offer that shows they do not value my contributions and paralleled dedication all these years? How can I not echo the actions of my heroes and stand for what is right no matter what the cost? How can I remain silent when my rights under the law have been violated?”

E! probably should have seen this coming. Messing expressed solidarity with Sadler on Twitter earlier today.

Messing and most other attendees at the Golden Globes are wearing black tonight as part of the launch of the Time’s Up campaign.

Later in the broadcast Laura Dern and Sarah Jessica Parker also took the network to task during interviews on E!.

“We need the powers that be and all the industries and networks and E! to help us with closing this pay gender gap,” Dern said.

Comedian Amy Schumer raised the issue on Instagram.

This article was originally published at ThinkProgress on January 8, 2018. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Judd Legum is the founding editor-in-chief of ThinkProgress.

Congresswoman Will Introduce First-Ever Bill To Get Rid Of Salary Histories

Thursday, September 1st, 2016

Bryce CovertWhen Congress gets back from recess, one of the first items on Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton’s (D-DC) agenda will be salary histories.

She, along with co-sponsors Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), will introduce the first-ever bill to ban employers from asking about applicants’ prior pay before making an offer.

The bill is aimed at closing the gender wage gap, which means the average woman working full-time, year round makes 79 percent of what a man does and women of color make even less.

Norton has a long history of working to end the wage gap, from her time enforcing equal pay laws while chairing the Equal Employment Opportunity Office to introducing and sponsoring equal pay legislation in Congress. Yet even she is somewhat new to the issue of salary histories and was inspired by a recent law that passed in Massachusetts banning their use.

“It was not instinctive to me to understand that asking an applicant for prior history could have a lifelong discriminatory affect,” she told ThinkProgress. But, she added, “All you need to do is think five seconds about it and you understand it.”

The issue is that women and people of color start out being paid less, a disparity that only compounds if their next job’s pay is based off of their prior pay. Women make less than men in their first jobs, a gap that is actually increasing, and then continue to earn less in virtually every occupation and even if they get more education.

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) at the DNC. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) at the DNC. CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

“If this disparity can begin from the moment you go to your first job, and it follows you throughout your career, it will never be rectified and the wage gap itself will never be rectified,” Norton said. “It is a hidden form of discrimination that many employers may think is reasonable to ask and may not understand the discriminatory effect.”

There is always room, of course, for employers to ask questions of applicants to determine who to hire and who will be a good fit. But Norton doesn’t think this one lives up to that scrutiny. “What somebody earned before does not go to merit… It doesn’t tell you how that employee, for example, should be judged relative to other employees,” she said. She noted it may even be hampering men, who would also be protected under the new bill.

The idea of eliminating salary histories has quickly gained prominence. Massachusetts passed its bill in the beginning of August, and a few weeks later a similar bill was introduced in the New York City council. Now it’s poised for federal attention.

For Norton, it’s a matter of halting a pattern that’s keeping pay disparities in place. “People of color and women never break the chain of discrimination, because it’s built in,” she said.

This article was originally posted at Thinkprogress.org on August 30, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Bryce Covert  is the Economic Policy Editor for ThinkProgress. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, The New York Daily News, New York Magazine, Slate, The New Republic, and others. She has appeared on ABC, CBS, MSNBC, and other outlets.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Took Us Back to the Status Quo: Gender Discrimination Lives On with the Gender Pay Gap

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Rebecca PontikesAmerican women were appalled when the U.S. Supreme Court snatched away Lilly Ledbetter’s gender pay discrimination victory over Goodyear Tire because Ledbetter did not know about repeated gender discrimination in pay at each moment it occurred.  In a decision that ignored workplace norms and realities, the Court explained that Ledbetter lost her right to sue for unequal pay because she did not meet a legal time limit for each discriminatory paycheck (even though she was unaware about the discrimination as it occurred).  The outcry started with Justice Ruth Bader GinsbergIn reading her stinging dissent from the bench, she observed “Pay disparities, of the kind Ledbetter experienced, have a closer kinship to hostile work environment claims than to charges of a single episode of discrimination.”  Ledbetter v. Goodyear, 550 U.S. 618 (2007).  The law recognizes that someone in a hostile work environment might take some time to piece it all together and sue, and that worker is not penalized for the time that realization takes with a strict time limit.

Congress reacted, and on January 20, 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.  The Ledbetter Act makes the time limit to bring a lawsuit for discriminatory wages more like that for a hostile work environment, making it a violation of Title VII every time someone receives a discriminatory paycheck and making recovery available for older violations if they are similar to newer violations.   Although there was much rejoicing, the Ledbetter Act did not radically change the law.  The only effect of the Ledbetter Act was to return the discrimination laws to their original purpose: to eradicate discrimination.

What the Ledbetter Act did not address was the troubling claim by the majority that Ledbetter’s later paychecks could not have been issued with the discriminatory bias because the supervisors who continued to pay less because of her gender did not make a decision to pay her less.  Ledbetter, 550 U.S. at 629.  By focusing on a literal, conscious, deliberative decision the U.S. Supreme Court discounted the role of reflexive bias (acting on gender stereotypes) in managerial decisions, including setting pay, which leads to discrimination. The discriminatory effect of reflexive bias is real.  Supervisors acting on stereotypes or on reflexive biases often make decisions based upon stereotypes about male and female roles, including deciding to pay men more and women less, even though they are not making a literal, conscious choice to discriminate and might even think of themselves as unbiased.  A decision to pay a female employee less might not be generated by a hostile thought process, yet the effect is just as illegal as a deliberate decision to act with discriminatory intent.  Stereotyping as illegal discrimination is not a new idea for the U.S. Supreme Court.  While it seems to have ignored it here, in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228 (1989), the Court recognized that making a decision based on stereotypes about women or men, including how much (or little) to pay them, is discriminatory and illegal.

Historical wage data illustrates the significant effect of unconscious bias on decisions determining women’s pay.  In 1979, the first year for which comparable earnings data are available, women earned 62 % of male salaries.  By 2010, decades after Title VII and the Equal Pay Act had been in force, the gap had narrowed significantly, with women earning around 79 to 80% of the average male weekly wage.  However, it took over thirty years for the gap to narrow, and the gap has not budged since 2004. Women in the Labor Force: A Databook (2010 Edition)” Table 16, U.S. Dept. of Labor, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, July 2011.  Even more disturbing are the statistics for working mothers.  While a childless woman earns 94 cents of a childless man’s dollar, mothers earn only 60 cents of a father’s dollar, even less than all women earned in comparison to all men in 1979.

Experimental research shows that mothers in particular are subject to pervasive reflexive gender bias.  In one study, test subjects were asked to review resumes that differed only in noting parental status.  The reviewers systematically rated childless women and fathers significantly higher than mothers on competency, work commitment, promotability, and recommendations for hire.  Reviewers gave mothers the lowest wage offers, averaging $13,000 less than wage offers made to fathers. Shelley J. Correll, Stephen Benard, and In Paik, Getting a job: Is There a Motherhood Penalty?, 112 Am. J. of Soc. 1297-1338 (2007).  This phenomenon occurs whether the woman is a low wage worker or a highly paid one. (See Chris Fleming, Gender Gap In Starting Physician Salaries Is Growing, Health Affairs Blog, February 3, 2011)  It is no surprise that among mothers in management, there is a gender pay gap relative to fathers ranging from 21% to 34%.  The wage gap among childless managers is notably lower than the wage gap, at 17% to 24%.  See Testimony of Michelle J. Budig, Assoc. Prof. of Sociology, Faculty Associate, Center for Public Policy Administration, Univ. of Massachusetts at Amherst, “New Evidence on the Gender Pay Gap for Women and Mothers in Management,” Sept. 28, 2010.  Putting these findings together, it is clear that there is a substantial bias against mothers, whether deliberate or unconscious, in the workplace that is causing a sizable gap between working mothers’ compensation and childless women and all men.

While the Ledbetter Act was certainly important to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court’s limitation on employee rights, it did nothing to address the status quo of wage inequality for women, particularly for working mothers.   What we now need are laws that address unconscious gender bias and combat enduring stereotypes about gender roles. One measure to combat this act is the Paycheck Fairness Act (“PFA”) (H.R. 377 and S. 84).  The PFA would change the manner in which female-dominated positions are valued, with provisions limiting an employer’s defense that compensation was based on factors “other than sex,” expanding damages, and proposing guidelines for employers on evaluating jobs without gender bias .  Although the bill has been introduced in the Senate since 2009, it has never mustered enough votes to pass.  In January 2013, Senator Milkulski has reintroduced the bill and it is currently sitting in committee. When a law like the PFA passes, we can make progress in addressing the invidious and unconscious discrimination that perpetuates the gender wage gap and finally close it.

About the Author: Rebecca Pontikes has been practicing law since 1997.  She has a passion for employment law and civil rights that drives her practice. In addition to employment, she also has brought suit under Title IX on behalf of a sexually assaulted student.  She is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School and of Tufts University and is admitted to the Massachusetts bar, the Federal District of Massachusetts, and the First Circuit.  Her peers selected her as a “SuperLawyer” in 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.  Massachusetts Lawyer’s Weekly named her a Top Woman in Law in 2012.  She lives in Cambridge with her husband.

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