50 years after Equal Pay Act women still earn less

50 years after Equal Pay Act women still earn less (Image 1)

Despite President John F. Kennedy signing the Equal Pay Act 50 years ago, women are still receiving less pay than men in the workplace.

The day President Kennedy signed the bill into law, women earned just 59 cents for every dollar a man earned, on average.

Now, five decades later, the national average, including Tennessee, shows women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes.

The National Partnership for Women and Families reports females who work full time in Tennessee miss out on $7 billion per year, which translates to nearly a year and a half worth of food and seven more months of mortgage and utility payments.

According to experts, part of the gap in pay is driven by women's choices, as many choose to leave the workforce for periods of time to raise a family.

Attorney Jonathan Street with the Higgins firm in Nashville says he still comes across several cases involving lesser pay for women in the workplace, adding it's often difficult to prove the cases.

“You have to look at a lot of factors. An employer can raise some defenses like if the man was there longer, if he had seniority, if he had done a better job or done more work. It's a lot of gray area in there,” Street said.

Advocacy groups believe the Archaic Equal Pay Act could be strengthened if the Paycheck Fairness Act is passed.  The act would get rid of loopholes and put gender discrimination on equal footing with other forms of discrimination to hold employers accountable.

“I think there are a lot of special interest groups in Washington that are trying to prevent that from happening. It could open up their companies to some lawsuits. They like these loopholes,” Street said.

The bill was introduced to a congressional committee last January, which will consider it before sending it to the House or Senate as a whole.

For women who feel they are discriminated against, they are encouraged to report it to the Equality Employment Opportunity Commission and then seek legal representation.

Once a lawsuit is filed, companies must reveal their employees' salaries.

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