Obama to require CT federal contractors to disclose gender pay gaps

Washington – Continuing to use his executive authority to bypass a recalcitrant Congress, President Obama on Thursday proposed a new rule that would require federal contractors and subcontractors to disclose more information about pay to male and female employees.

The executive order — a move to diminish gender pay inequality — will require contractors and subcontractors with more than 50 employees and more than $50,000 in federal contracts to include in employment reports to the Labor Department additional information regarding sex, race, ethnicity, specific job categories, hours worked and number of employees.

The Obama administration believes about 116,000 federal contractors and subcontractors would be required to file the new “Equal Pay Report.” Many of these would be in Connecticut, where state companies have won more than 25,000 contracts this year worth nearly $40 billion.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, has for years promoted the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation that would expand the Equal Pay Act to close certain loopholes and allow employees to share salary information with their coworkers. It would also require employers to prove pay differences between their male and female employees are related to job performance, not gender. GOP opposition has stalled the bill.

“A key part of ending what President Kennedy called the ‘serious and endemic’ problem of unequal wages is having the knowledge that you are being paid less in the first place,” DeLauro said. “This is not just about women; it is about ensuring families, who are more reliant on women’s wages than ever, are not being shortchanged. Collecting data is a necessary step if we are to identify and end patterns of pay disparity. I am pleased the Labor Department is finally dealing with this scourge head-on. Now Congress needs to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.”

The National Partnership for Women and Families says Connecticut women who work full time earn an average of 78 cents for every dollar a man in the state earns. Nationally, women make an average of about 77 cents for every dollar a man earns in pay, the NPWF said. Minority women earn even less.

The group also said a female worker in Connecticut earns an average annual salary of $47,900 while a male earns $61,097.

The executive order that focuses on equal pay is the latest step Obama has taken in a campaign to use his executive order to make an end-run on Congress, where a GOP-controlled House has blocked many initiatives. Those include an immigration bill that would have helped the White House deal with an influx of unaccompanied child migrants. Obama has indicated he’d use his executive authority to change immigration policy – and other things – and will probably act while Congress is out of town on its August recess.

On Wednesday, the president said he will “scour over” U.S. laws and regulations to see what authority he has to continue issuing executive orders.

Earlier this month, Obama signed the “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” executive order , which imposes additional disclosure and compliance obligations on federal government contractors with procurement contracts valued at more than $500,000. Among other things, the order requires contractors to disclose labor law violations, restricts the use of arbitration agreements, and requires certain information to be provided on employees’ paystubs.

“If you want to do business with the United States of America, you got to respect our workers, you got to respect our taxpayers,” Obama said. “The goal here is to make sure this action raises standards across the economy.”

Workers rights advocates and unions heralded the order, which applies to roughly 24,000 businesses with federal contracts, including Connecticut’s large defense contractors. But some contractors a pushing back, saying the new regulations are too cumbersome.

Obama is using his executive power more frequently in defiance of a GOP move to sue him for exceeding his authority when he postponed a provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires companies to cover their workers.

The lawsuit was expected to fail in court but energize the GOP base in this election year. Yet polls show it’s not popular.

In a CBS poll, released Wednesday, 54 percent of Americans said they disapproved of the suit, while 37 percent said they approved of it. A similar poll conducted by CNN last month found that those surveyed disapprove of the GOP effort by a 57 percent to 41 percent margin.

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