Obama to Sign Executive Orders on Equal Pay for Women

Administration paid female employees 11.8% less than males in 2013

President Obama will once again take unilateral action, this time addressing pay inequality for women employed by federal contractors via two new executive orders. 

Politico reports that Obama will sign two new executive orders that will coincide with so-called “Equal Pay Day,” a date that highlights how far into 2014 women must work to earn the same as men last year. The two executive orders parallel provisions in the Paycheck Fairness Act, which Congress has already rejected twice and which the Senate will take up again on Tuesday, though few expect the House to bring the bill to the floor.

One of the two orders will prohibit retaliation from federal contractors against employees who share salary information. As Huffington Post highlights, the provision is named after Lilly Ledbetter, who was likewise honored by the equal pay bill Obama signed in 2009.

The other executive action will order the Department of Labor to create additional regulations requiring all federal contractors to report wage data to the government. This will provide the federal government increased oversight of contractors so it can pressure companies on salary inequalities.

Those who support the actions point to statistics that show that men on average are paid 7% more than women. The non-profit women’s equality organization the American Association of University Women (AAUW) calls the president’s unilateral action a “victory” for all families. The VP of government relations for the group thanked the president for sending a “clear message to companies” about the importance for gender equality:

AAUW applauds the president for ensuring these workers have the freedom to talk about their salaries without fear — a kind of openness that can help close the gender pay gap. The executive order also sends a clear message to companies awarded government contracts that they cannot discriminate with taxpayer money.

Tuesday, the Senate will vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would broaden Obama’s executive orders to not only apply to federal contractors but to most other employees and would require employers to demonstrate that sex does not play a role in salary differences. The House is unlikely to bring the act to the floor, GOP leadership dismissing the bill as a political move that would result in more laws and lawsuits but not more equal pay for women.

Many critics have pointed to the irony of the president's emphasis on equal pay when in 2013 his administration was still paying women 11.8% less than male employees.