Federal gender-gap pay bill draws mixed reviews
BY KAREN SHUEY, Staff Writer
Women in the workplace are getting shortchanged with every paycheck.
Labor Department figures show that women make 78 cents for every dollar made by a man for equal work -- an earnings gap of nearly $420,000 during a full career.
"This is pretty alarming when you consider the economic impact over a lifetime," U.S. Sen. Bob Casey said. "What you are doing is subjecting women to an economic inferiority or disparity. That is really unacceptable."
The Democrat is campaigning for the passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which he says will help close the gap.
The bill would strengthen penalties that courts may impose for equal pay violations and prohibit retaliation against workers who inquire about or disclose information about employers' wage practices.
The bill also would require employers to show pay disparity is truly related to job performance, not gender.
At the local level, feelings about the bill are mixed.
While state Rep. Mindy Fee agrees that women should get paid as much as their counterparts, she doesn't support the Paycheck Fairness Act.
"I have a problem when the government comes in and tells the business community how to set wages," the Manheim Republican said.
Fee said it's the responsibility of individuals -- no matter their gender -- to fight for the salaries they believe they deserve.
Citing a report from the Joint Economic Committee, Casey said women in Pennsylvania earn $694 per week compared to $849 a week for men, a difference of 18.3 percent.
Casey said that disparity makes "a substantial economic impact over time for women, their families, their communities and for the nation at large."
He said he hoped Congress would vote on the legislation in the next few months.
As the only female to represent Lancaster County voters, Fee said her gender hasn't kept her from achieving any of her goals.
"I never think of myself at a disadvantage because I'm a woman," she said.
Melissa Kleinfelter agrees with Fee that being a woman shouldn't matter, but she said sometimes it does.
"It's unfortunate that this is still an issue, and that we need a bill to do things that employers already know are right," said the president of Women @ Work Express Network, Lancaster County's chapter of the American Business Women's Association.
Kleinfelter said women's earnings are an increasing portion of total family income.
The report by the Joint Economic Committee shows 18,203 children in Lancaster County who are wholly dependent on their mother's earnings.