New executive actions target equal pay for women

President Barack Obama is once again using executive action related to the pay American workers earn. A White House fact sheet says the actions are aimed at fighting pay discrimination and strengthening enforcement of equal pay laws.

In one action, Obama signed a presidential memorandum instructing Secretary of Labor Tom Perez to establish new regulations requiring federal contractors to submit more data to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). The president wants the DOL to collect summary data on compensation paid to employees, including data by sex and race.

The fact sheet says the DOL will use the data “to encourage compliance with equal pay laws and to target enforcement more effectively by focusing efforts where there are discrepancies and reducing burdens on other employers.”

Obama also signed an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their compensation. The fact sheet says the order doesn’t compel workers to discuss their pay and doesn’t require employers to publish or otherwise disseminate pay data. Instead, the White House says the action will “provide a critical tool to encourage pay transparency.”

The latest executive actions follow Obama’s January Executive Order requiring federal contractors to pay employees at least $10.10 an hour. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. The $10.10 minimum wage applies only to employees working on new federal contracts. A bill has been introduced in Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 for all workers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), not just federal contractors.

In March, Obama took another executive action when he signed a presidential memorandum directing Perez to begin the process of changing regulations to make more workers eligible for overtime pay. Proposed regulations are expected to cut back on “white-collar” exemptions and make more workers eligible for overtime pay.

April 8 has been dubbed Equal Pay Day to symbolize how long into 2014 women must work to earn as much as men earned in 2013. The Senate is expected to consider the Paycheck Fairness Act on or around April 8. The bill has failed in the past but was introduced in the Senate on April 1.