Wage Discrimination: Behind the Numbers

By Jocelyn Frye and Kaitlin Holmes

Equal pay is often framed in the public debate as being solely a women’s issue. But a close look at the data reveals that wage discrimination is a problem experienced by many different groups, including women, men, older workers, and workers with disabilities.

A review of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charge filings data—both public and unpublished—helps paint a diverse and nuanced picture of wage discrimination claims. Having a clearer, more accurate understanding of wage discrimination is essential in identifying the breadth of the challenges facing workers and the most effective solutions in response to the needs of workers.

The majority of wage discrimination charges alleging discrimination based on gender are filed by women. But a portion of gender-based wage discrimination charges are also filed by men. A review of unpublished EEOC data from the past four fiscal years shows that men filed, on average, 15 percent of gender-based wage discrimination charges.

Overall, wage discrimination charges are filed under several different laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The majority of wage discrimination charges are filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These charges include claims alleging wage discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, and religion. Gender-based wage discrimination claims are also filed under the Equal Pay Act. Nearly one-fifth of wage discrimination charges include an allegation of wage discrimination based on age, and a slightly smaller percentage of charges allege wage discrimination on the basis of disability.

The data make clear that wage discrimination is experienced by workers in a variety of different ways. This diverse snapshot is important to understand because too often, opponents of strengthening equal pay protections dismiss concerns about unequal pay, arguing that wage discrimination is simply about women’s choices. But the data tell a different story. Pay disparities persist across many different groups. Stereotypes about workers because of their race, age, disability status, or other factors can result in discrimination that devalues their work and results in lower pay. These economic consequences can be devastating for working families trying to make ends meet.

This necessitates concrete solutions and tools that combat wage discrimination while reflecting a broader understanding of discrimination in its different forms. Tools aimed at providing greater insight into pay differences are critical. For example, the Employer Information Report, or EEO-1 form—a form that employers with 100 or more employees are required to file annually to provide a demographic breakdown of their workforce—was updated during the Obama administration to require the inclusion of pay data across different job categories. This new information will provide invaluable and greater insight into pay differences by race, ethnicity, and gender that can inform federal agency enforcement efforts. Additional strategies are also needed to examine how wage discrimination operates in the workplace and whether intersectional differences such as age, disability status, and emerging areas of the law such as LGBTQ status affect pay disparities among workers, rather than assuming pay disparities are normal or to be expected.

Equal pay for equal work is a cornerstone of this nation’s commitment to equality and fairness in the workplace. To combat wage discrimination effectively, it is vital to recognize the diverse ways pay disparities arise in the workplace and to pursue a wide range of strategies in response.

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Reposted from CAP

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

NAFTA Must be Fought from the Ground Up

A group of local labor leaders, activists, and politicians met in Pittsburgh on Wednesday to take part in a forum regarding NAFTA renegotiations, which were set to begin this week in Washington. Of course, the main focus was how to rework the free trade deal to instead be fair for all workers instead of favoring CEOs.

“It’s urgent that workers’ voices be heard,” said USW President Leo W. Gerard. “If the agreement is renegotiated and doesn’t meet the standard that workers have a voice, we’ll have a very aggressive campaign to stop this new NAFTA.”

Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey also touched on one point that perhaps many in the debate tend to miss, which is that NAFTA can't just be reworded with the hope that it solves all of our economic problems. The countries must also tackle policies put in place outside of the failed trade deal in all three nations involved—the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

One of these things, Casey pointed out, is tax reform. As of now, there is no financial incentive to keep U.S. companies operating on U.S. soil. Our tax code does the opposite and encourages them instead to ship jobs overseas and into Mexico.

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A New NAFTA for Workers

A New NAFTA for Workers