U.S. President Barack Obama has been vocal about the need to rectify the pay scale that is negatively weighted against women — despite equal pay legislation having been enacted in 1963. In his recent tours around the U.S., he has spoken of the need to improve upon the unfair pay advantages given to men that persist even with decades of acknowledgement that discrimination based on sex is against federal law. He is now on the brink of announcing official action to boost the enforcement of equal pay laws — particularly regarding federal contractors.

USA Today reports that Obama — on April 8 — will sign two documents that aim at strengthening the existing equal pay acts. One will ban federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss compensation, and the other is a presidential memorandum that will instruct the Labor Secretary to work on implementing new regulations that will require federal contractors to submit data on employee compensation to the Department of Labor’s summary.

While these orders are not necessarily new legislation regarding equal pay, they are intended to encourage the abidance by existing laws. Yet, Congress is about to consider a new act that would aim at effectively targeting companies that discriminate based on sex and arbitrarily pay women less than men.

The Paycheck Fairness Act — which has been proposed by the Senate — aims at placing new regulations on companies that would require them to prove that differences in pay between men and women are irrespective of gender. While such a proposal is unlikely to pass in the House — a Republican-led entity — it has already gained momentum from support from activist groups. Of course, there is already objection from conservatives. USA Today’s report quotes Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s spokesman, Don Stewart:

“The president has been telling us for the last five years that he already made equal pay ‘a reality,’ and that he made sure that women are treated ‘the same,’ that the first bill he signed ‘ensures’ equal pay. So you have to wonder if maybe, just maybe, this is an effort to distract from the consequences of Obamacare, the economy, lack of new ideas.”


Further reading:

JPMorgan agrees to settle on sex discrimination suit

ABA launches gender pay equality initiative

Wisconsin women file regional gender discrimination case against Wal-Mart in wake of Dukes