Equal Pay Act
Equal Pay Act
United States 1963
The passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 marked the federal government's legislative foray into safeguarding working women's employment rights. The law itself was weak: it mandated that women doing work "equal" (not "comparable") to men be paid the same as men. It permitted a gradual elimination of wage differentials between men and women and exempted entirely employers with fewer than 25 employees.
The nearly two-decade battle for equal-pay legislation is as important for how it brought together a small group of women active in government, liberal, religious, and labor organizations to advocate for gender equality as it is for the actual law passed. Where once these activists defended protective laws for women workers, after World War II they turned their attention to widening women's employment opportunity. This came about as American women began to think differently about their status in the workplace and at home in the postwar period. As demographic, economic, and technological transformations began to affect women's lives in the 1950s and early 1960s, women workers demanded equality with men in such areas as seniority, job assignment, promotion, and pay.
Women unionists were at the forefront of the equal-pay effort. The law's passage was one of several factors leading to the rise of second-wave feminism after 1965. Union women's experiences in helping pass the law helped create support for feminism in the labor movement.
- 1944: Allies land at Normandy on 6 June, conducting the largest amphibious invasion in history.
- 1949: Soviets conduct their first successful atomic test. This heightens growing cold war tensions, not least because the sudden acquisition of nuclear capabilities suggests that American spies are passing secrets.
- 1954: The French military outpost at Dien Bien Phu falls to the communist Vietminh. France withdraws after decades of trying to suppress revolt; meanwhile, the United States pledges its support for the noncommunist government in the south.
- 1959: Two new leaders appear on the scene in January as General Charles de Gaulle becomes the first president of France's Fifth Republic, and Fidel Castro takes control of Cuba after the collapse of the corrupt Batista regime.
- 1962: Publication of Rachel Carson's Silent Spring heightens Americans' awareness of environmental issues.
- 1964: On 7 February, in the midst of both a literal and figurative winter in America following Kennedy's assassination, the Beatles arrive at New York's newly renamed JFK Airport. The enthusiasm that greets them is partly the result of a clever marketing campaign—one of the first of its kind—but it also has a great deal to do with the sheer talent and charm exerted by the four. In their 9 February Ed Sullivan Show performance, they break a record set seven years earlier by their idol Elvis Presley, with 70 million viewers, or roughly 60 percent of the U.S. audience.
- 1964: In Mississippi, civil rights workers Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Cheney are murdered. Twenty-one conspirators are arrested, and seven are convicted by a federal jury.
- 1964: U.S. Congress approves the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, giving President Johnson broad powers to prosecute the by now rapidly escalating war in Vietnam.
- 1967: The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band tops the list of releases for a year that will long be remembered as a high point of rock history. Among the other great musical events of the year are releases by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the Doors, and Jefferson Airplane; also, the Monterey Pop Festival marks the debut of Hendrix and Janis Joplin.
- 1968: The Reverend Martin Luther King is assassinated on 4 April. Senator Robert F. Kennedy is assassinated on 6 June.
- 1969: On 20 July, assisted by pilot Michael Collins, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin E. "Buzz" Aldrin become the first men to walk on the Moon.
- 1974: On 30 July, the House Judiciary Committee adopts three articles of impeachment for President Nixon, but rather than undergo a lengthy trial, Nixon on 8 August becomes the first president in U.S. history to resign. His successor, Gerald Ford, pardons him in September.
- 1979: After years of unrest, the shah of Iran leaves the country, and Islamic fundamentalist revolutionaries under the leadership of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini take control. Later in the year, militants seize control of the U.S. embassy in Teheran and take more than 50 Americans hostage.
Event and Its Context
The Legacy of World War II
Support for a federal equal-pay law for women dates back to the nineteenth century but only took concrete form in the 1940s, as large numbers of women entering the war production workforce demanded that they be paid on a par with men. In general, they were not, but they did take up jobs previously designated as "men's jobs" and destabilized the notion that women were unfit to perform certain kinds of work. "Rosie the Riveter" came to expect more money and greater status in the workplace and union with this new responsibility. At the very least, "Rosies" everywhere wanted to be paid what men, working alongside them, were paid. Male unionists had long supported equal pay, especially in industries where the replacement of men with women loomed large. Some would come to seek an equal-pay law for reasons rooted in union and political principles.
The United Electrical Workers (UEW) was led by such unionists. Fearful of the influx of women workers into an industry already marked by low wages, piece work, and the threat of female substitution, union leaders demanded equal pay in contracts, government administration rulings, and the law. Equal pay had been a collective bargaining goal long before the country's entry into the war in 1941, but UEW officers stepped up their campaign by calling on the government to mandate equal pay through the War Labor Board (WLB). The WLB had issued "General Order no. 16" in 1942, mandating that companies with government contracts institute equal-pay policies. In a 1945 case that introduced the issue of comparable worth for the first time, the WLB ordered General Electric and Westinghouse to raise women workers' pay by four cents an hour and to set aside two cents per hour in a fund for upgrading jobs held by female employees. The war ended soon after the ruling, and the electrical manufacturers for the most part ignored it. As dramatically as they had come into the war plants, women left or, in most cases, were fired. Those fortunate enough to secure employment during the reconversion period took severe pay cuts: women who had earned an average of 85 to 90 cents an hour were now accepting jobs that paid only 45 to 50 cents an hour.
The Early Campaign for a Federal Equal Pay Law
Mary Anderson, the U.S. Women's Bureau director, crafted the first federal equal-pay bill in 1945, confident that the widespread support for equal pay during World War II would carry over into the postwar period. She called for nondiscrimination in wages paid for "comparable work" rather than "equal work." The Women's Bureau explored the possibility of what is now called "comparable worth" in a series of hearings and investigations held in 1945 and 1947. The bureau scuttled its incipient campaign in the face of contention over how best to develop evaluation schemes and job point weights in specific industries. Moreover, equal pay better "fit" the mood of the postwar United States. Equal pay promised individual justice, helped increase economic growth by putting more money in some women's pockets, and reduced potential workplace friction by maintaining occupational sex-segregation. This buttressed the male-defined, family-wage ideology, while comparable worth challenged accepted conventional notions of gender roles and industrial wage policy. Congressional bills continued to use comparable worth terminology, but most supporters quietly abandoned pushing for its application beyond that meaning work of an identical or nearly identical nature.
As reasonable as equal-pay legislation seemed, nearly 20 years passed before Anderson's proposal became law, and yet another decade went by before her call for "equal pay for comparable worth" gained significant support. Frieda Miller, Anderson's successor in the bureau, continued to work for equal pay into the 1950s. She was met, however, by opposition from the business community, conservative legislators, and a withering of public interest in rewarding women for their wartime contribution, an effort that faded from public memory as the nation moved into the 1950s.
Union support for equal-pay legislation came from the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) and its constituent unions, whose representatives testified before Congress that the bill's enactment was a matter of justice to women workers, beneficial to men, and necessary to the nation's well-being. These unions included the United Automobile Workers, United Rubber Workers, the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, and the Communications Workers of America. They viewed equal-pay legislation as a part of their "social union" mission to move beyond workplace issues and advocate for broad social change that valued human rights over property rights. Although social unionism receded in the face of modern business unionism in the 1950s, its rhetoric continued to embolden activists and some union leaders.
The other large labor federation of the period, the American Federation of Labor (AFL), was an organization dominated by skilled trade unions and had little interest in promoting "women's issues." In addition, the AFL objected to the legislation on the grounds that it opposed any schemes that involved the state in either evaluating job performance or setting wage rates. This hostility was rooted in the AFL's voluntaristic strategy, forged at the turn of the century by skilled trade unionists in reaction to debilitating court decisions and antiunion actions of state and federal politicians. Where the CIO saw its role in American society as wide-ranging and active in social reform, the AFL usually confined their efforts to agreements on such things as wages, hours, and training.
AFL leaders, in fact, were neither consistent nor unified in their approach to legislation. Their relationship to the state was both reactive and fluid, subject to change if circumstances warranted. In response to the debilitating effects of the Taft-Hartley Act, they began endorsing political candidates, usually Democrats. By the early 1950s, under the leadership of George Meany, the AFL was lobbying for further expansion of the Social Security program and an increased minimum wage. Shortly after the two federations merged in 1955, the AFL-CIO executive council formally endorsed equal-pay legislation. Thereafter, federation lobbyists Andrew Biemiller and George Riley worked with sympathetic lawmakers to generate interest in the bill.
The real force behind moving equal-pay legislation through Congress came from a loosely formed coalition sponsored by the U.S. Women's Bureau. The so-called Women's Bureau coalition had as its members unionists and those representing liberal interest groups, some of whom had their roots in the progressive movement. These groups included the Women's Trade Union League, the National Consumers League, and the League of Women Voters. Religion-based organizations and business and professional organizations participated as well, although in a less-concerted fashion. Unionists spearheaded most of the coalition's efforts. This included men, such as David Lasser of the International Union of Electrical Workers (IUE). As head of the union's research department, Lasser conducted several important studies on equal pay and prepared the IUE's president, James Carey, to become a national advocate for the measure.
The campaign for equal pay languished for much of the 1950s. With the arrival of the Eisenhower administration in 1953, the executive branch's support cooled considerably. The new Women's Bureau director, Alice Leopold, angered equal-pay supporters by hinting that the bureau might soften its anti-Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) stance. She left union women and others on tenterhooks by occasionally stating that her office took no position against the amendment. Legislation backers believed that the ERA would negate protective laws for women workers and, perhaps, an equal-pay law. Although she did not abandon federal equal-pay legislation entirely, she failed to provide data on the prevalence of unequal pay scales, information many in Congress requested before backing the bill. More important, Leopold rejected federation overtures to back Edith Green's (D-OR) version of the original Anderson bill; she endorsed instead the conservative bill introduced into the House of Representatives by Frances P. Bolton (R-OH). Bolton's bill gave enforcement power to administrators in the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor to mediate disputes; they could not issue "cease and desist" orders, as Green authorized the Women's Bureau head to do in her bill. Also, while the Bolton bill provided for the secretary of labor to file suit on the complainants' behalf, it did not include a blacklist provision for guilty employers as did the Green measure.
For the first time, the center of support for equal pay shifted outside government and onto the National Committee on Equal Pay (NCEP), whose executive board was dominated by unionists. Although their support for equal pay never wavered, federation officers did not make the bill's passage a priority. Nor did unions. Most collective bargaining agreements did not reflect a commitment to equal pay: a Bureau of Labor Statistics study completed in the early 1950s found that only one-fifth of the 2,644 bargaining agreements analyzed contained equal-pay clauses.
Still, if Americans did not support equal pay with vigor during this period, they nevertheless were gradually more willing to accept the idea. Changing economic, social, and familial norms progressively destabilized gender relations in the two decades following the war's end. The massive layoffs and demotions of women workers in the 1945-1947 period gave way to a significant rise in the proportion and number of women in the paid labor force beginning in the late 1940s. While younger women starting families after World War II tended to stay at home, the percentage of mothers in the work force with children between the ages of six and seventeen shot up to 41.5 percent in 1963 from 30.3 percent in 1950, a 37 percent increase. As more women went on the payroll at factories, offices, retail stores, and schools, union activists conveyed the idea that working women's rights were a legitimate issue for public debate.
Passage of the Equal Pay Act of 1963
Prospects for passage of an equal-pay law increased significantly following John F. Kennedy's election to the presidency in 1960. The new administration was not only more open to social legislation than the Republicans but included several unionists receptive to "women's issues." Key congressional figures marshaled support for the equal-pay struggle as well. Adam Clayton Powell (D-NY), who replaced the intractable Graham Barden (D-NC) as chair of the important House Education and Labor Committee in 1960, favored equal-pay legislation. Women legislators, in particular, played an important role in convincing colleagues to back equal-pay proposals. Veterans from both parties, such as Bolton, Katharine St. George (RNY), and Edna Kelly (D-NY), introduced and supported various bills, eventually backing Edith Green's effort.
Esther Peterson, more than anyone, revitalized interest in equal-pay legislation from her post as Women's Bureau head and assistant secretary of labor for President Kennedy. First as a lobbyist for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers, then as the legislative representative of the AFL-CIO's Industrial Union Division (IUD), Peterson was a tenacious promoter of equal pay. She undertook equal-pay studies, urged congressional hearings, and convened meetings with union and NCEP members in her office, agreeing with those present to back the Green bill.
In the end, conservatives in Congress and the business community weakened the measure considerably. The act, modeled on the Fair Employment Standards Act coverage, exempted employers with fewer than 25 employees and permitted a gradual elimination of wage differentials between men and women workers. Unionists were particularly troubled by the replacement of "comparable worth" language with that of "equal work." Since the bill's inception in the mid-1940s, its advocates had insisted that "equal" would mean identical and that slight differences might be used by employers to justify disparate wages. They had long ago scotched the notion that "comparable" should address the relative aspects of positions based on skill, effort, and responsibility, but they still clung to the belief that retaining such language would prevent employer chiseling. Union leaders feared that managers would make minor changes in job elements in order to evade the law.
Labor representatives were in a weak position on this issue. Although they fought off the introduction of "equal" language into the bill, their fuzzy, narrowly construed notion of "comparable" said more about what they opposed than what they sought from legislators. In order to retain the "comparable" language, unionists had to acknowledge that they would have to make job comparisons at individual work sites; they balked, however, at the establishment of a job evaluation system, since it might strengthen management's already considerable control over employment matters. In the end, conservative lawmakers carried the day on the issue. Despite their misgivings in conceding to opponents on this matter, unionists and other NCEP members nevertheless honored Peterson's request to support the measure as being the only bill that had a chance of passage.
Labor leaders were able to intervene at key points to ward off some of the debilitating changes being made to the pending legislation. Unionists helped defeat an attempt by conservatives to include a provision in the bill postponing the effective date of the Equal Pay Act in the case of employees covered by current labor-management contracts until two years after enactment, or until contracts expired. They worried that such an allowance would set a dangerous precedent when they called for examining the minimum wage or maximum hours provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act.
In the wake of victory, women unionists assessed with pride their important role in the struggle. Activists viewed the act's passage as a confirmation of their place within the labor movement and in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party. Women were in the forefront of bringing the measure to Congress. They had definitively moved from the role traditionally assigned to them of providing auxiliary support to male unionists. Esther Peterson navigated treacherous political waters in convincing hesitant lawmakers that an equal-pay law was necessary. The struggle for a federal equal-pay law was an undertaking that union women would not let others forget during the height of second-wave feminism in the 1970s.
Those gathered in Washington, D.C., to celebrate on 11 June 1964—the date the Equal Pay Act was put into effect—understood the law's limitations but hoped it would serve as a symbolic victory for equality. In its first decade of enforcement, court decisions interpreted the meaning of "equal" pay broadly by refusing to limit the measure to identical jobs. As a result, the government awarded 171,000 employees $84 million in back pay.
The law was one of several signs in the early 1960s that support for gender equality in the workplace was on the rise. John F. Kennedy's President's Commission on the Status of Women, formed in the early 1960s, brought to national scrutiny for the first time the unresolved question of whether protective laws for women workers should be retained in the face of growing support for equality. In the years immediately preceding the emergence of second-wave feminism, new possibilities had begun to emerge, but they moved against the forces of tradition, industrial policy, and the law. Although the unionists and legislators who were most responsible for the Equal Pay Act of 1963 were not, at the time, in favor of jettisoning protective laws for women for the goal of workplace equality, the new law they helped create underscored a shift in working women's sentiment that would manifest itself over the course of the next decade in feminist activism.
Anderson, Mary (1872-1964): As head of the U.S. Women's Bureau, Anderson crafted the first federal equal-pay bill in 1945. She called for nondiscrimination in wages paid for "comparable work" rather than merely "equal work."
Lasser, David (1902-1994): In his position as research director of the International Union of Electrical Workers, AFL-CIO, Lasser was a persistent advocate for equal-pay legislation. He conducted several studies on the matter and presented his prepared testimony to Congress in the 1950s and early 1960s.
Peterson, Esther (1906-1997): Peterson is considered by her peers and historians as being the most significant advocate for equal-pay legislation. She served as lobbyist for the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America, AFL-CIO, staff member of the Industrial Union Department, AFLCIO, and the director of the U.S. Women's Bureau in the Kennedy Administration.
Deslippe, Dennis A. Rights, Not Roses: Unions and the Rise of Working-Class Feminism, 1945-1980. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2000.
Cobble, Dorothy Sue. "Recapturing Working-Class Feminism: Union Women in the Postwar Era." In Not June Cleaver: Women and Gender in Postwar America, 1945-1960, edited by Joanne Meyerowitz. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1994.
Gabin, Nancy F. Feminism in the Labor Movement: Women and the United Auto Workers, 1935-1975. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1990.
Harrison, Cynthia. On Account of Sex: The Politics of Women's Issues, 1945-1968. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988.
—Dennis A. Deslippe
Equal Pay Act of 1963
Equal Pay Act of 1963
By: Edith Green and Edith Rogers
Date: June 10, 1963
Source: Equal Pay Act of 1963. Public Law 88-38. 29 U.S. Code Sec. 206(d).
About the Author: Representative Edith Green, a Democrat from Oregon, first crafted the Equal Pay bill in 1955 with co-author Edith Rogers, a Republican congresswoman from Massachusetts. Green served ten terms in the House of Representatives for the state of Oregon, while Rogers served thirty-five years for Massachusetts, the longest tenure of any woman representative. Rogers died in 1960, before the equal Pay Act was signed into law.
The issue of equal pay legislation in the United States dates back to 1868, when newspapers such as The Revolution, published by women's rights activist Susan B. Anthony, advocated equal pay for equal work, an eight-hour work day, and the inclusion of women in labor unions. The ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment that same year, with its "equal protection" clause, inspired activists in search of equitable treatment for minorities and women.
World War I and, especially, World War II changed society's view of women as industrial workers. With the war industry experiencing sharp increases in labor needs at the same time that men were needed in the military, the U.S. government itself pushed to change the perception of factory work for women. The National War Labor Board recommended that men and women be paid equal wages during the war, and collective female labor experiences during the war years engineered social change in the coming decades.
Opponents of equal pay for equal work argued that federal laws were unnecessary. By 1963, over twenty states had laws on the books protecting equal pay, and corporate opponents of a federal law maintained that such laws were a matter for states, and not the federal government, to decide. In many states, women already enjoyed labor protections through legally mandated break periods that were longer or more frequent than those for men and shorter work days. In addition, opponents of equal pay legislation pointed to the expansion of federal bureaucracy necessary for the enforcement of any labor laws applying to women. Employers also noted the expense of creating separate restroom and changing facilities for women. According to opponents, the economics of equal pay would impose a financial burden on employers.
The persistent belief that a man should be the "provider" for his family, while his wife managed the domestic sphere fed the argument for lower wages for women. Many opponents of equal pay laws believed that single women needed less money because most of these women still lived with their parents, while married women should be housewives and mothers rather than working outside the home. The concept of a masculine "family wage" drove the cultural argument surrounding the wage gap.
Finally, opponents cited higher rates of absenteeism for female workers caused in part by pregnancy, child care issues, and medical concerns. This absenteeism, combined with existing state laws giving women more accommodations, made female workers a more expensive form of labor. Equal pay critics argued that paying women less was only fair, on balance, in light of these issues.
In 1961, President John F. Kennedy created the President's Commission on the Status of Women, which investigated issues of women's employment, health, education, and legal status. Chaired by former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, the Commission issued a report in 1963 with recommendations to improve the status of women in the United States, including such measures as anti-discrimination legislation, paid maternity and family leave, and access to affordable childcare. Indeed, 1963 became a transformative year for women's rights in America—the Commission on the Status of Women, the Equal Pay Act, and Betty Friedan's feminist book The Feminine Mystique all appeared during that year.
To prohibit discrimination on account of sex in the payment of wages by employers engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce. June 10, 1963 [S. 1409].
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That this Act may be cited as the "Equal Pay Act of 1963."
DECLARATION OF PURPOSE
SEC. 2. (a) The Congress hereby finds that the existence in industries engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce of wage differentials based on sex—.
(1) depresses wages and living standards for employees necessary for their health and efficiency;
(2) prevents the maximum utilization of the available labor resources;
(3) tends to cause labor disputes, thereby burdening, affecting, and obstructing commerce;
(4) burdens commerce and the free flow of goods in commerce; and
(5) constitutes an unfair method of competition.
(b) It is hereby declared to be the policy of this Act, through exercise by Congress of its power to regulate commerce among the several States and with foreign nations, to correct the conditions above referred to in such industries.
SEC. 3. Section 6 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended (29 U.S.C. et seq.), is amended by adding thereto a new subsection (d) as follows: Discrimination prohibited. 52 Stat. 1062; 63 Stat. 912.
(d)(1) No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions, except where such payment is made pursuant to (i) a seniority system; (ii) a merit system; (iii) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (iv) a differential based on any other factor other than sex: Provided, That an employer who is paying a wage rate differential in violation of this subsection shall not, in order to comply with the provisions of this subsection, reduce the wage rate of any employee. 29 USC 206.
(2) No labor organization, or its agents, representing employees of an employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall cause or attempt to cause such an employer to discriminate against an employee in violation of paragraph (1) of this subsection.
(3) For purposes of administration and enforcement, any amounts owing to any employee which have been withheld in violation of this subsection shall be deemed to be unpaid minimum wages or unpaid overtime compensation under this Act.
(4) As used in this subsection, the term 'labor organization' means any organization of any kind, or any agency or employee representation committee or plan, in which employees participate and which exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of dealing with employers concerning grievances, labor disputes, wages, rates of pay, hours of employment, or conditions of work. "Labor organization."
SEC. 4. The amendments made by this Act shall take effect upon the expiration of one year from the date of its enactment: Provided, That in the case of employees covered by a bona fide collective bargaining agreement in effect at least thirty days prior to the date of enactment of this Act, entered into by a labor organization (as defined in section 6(d)(4) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended), the amendments made by this Act shall take effect upon the termination of such collective bargaining agreement or upon the expiration of two years from the date of enactment of this Act, whichever shall first occur. Effective date.
Approved June 10, 1963, 12:00.
Proponents of equal pay legislation made one basic argument: equal pay for equal work. If a woman could do the same work that a man could perform, as women had shown themselves capable of doing during the wars, then she should be paid the same wage, regardless of marital status or gender. In 1955, Edith Rogers and Edith Green co-authored the first version of the Equal Pay Act; it passed in 1963, three years after Rogers' death. In 1963, the average working woman earned 59 cents for every dollar that the average working man earned.
Within seven years of the passage of the Equal Pay Act, forty states passed state-level versions of the Act. In the year following the passage of the Equal Pay Act, the 1964 Civil Rights Act created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to protect workers from discrimination based on sex and race.
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 taken together provided stronger legal protections to women than ever before, but, in the coming decade, a cluster of laws and government actions granted women greater access to rights previously available to men only. President Lyndon Johnson's 1965 Executive Order 11375 ordered federal agencies to provide women with equal access to employment and educational opportunities; the 1972 Title IX law banned sex discrimination in schools; and the 1974 Equal Credit Opportunity Act required equal access to credit and financial services regardless of sex, marital status, race, age, or national origin.
Women's rights activist groups such as the National Organization for Women, the National Women's Political Caucus, and publications, such as Ms. Magazine, championed the labor rights of women. Workplace equity became the central tenet of the women's movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s, feeding into the push for an Equal Rights Amendment as well.
As other protections, including prohibitions against firing pregnant women and laws against sexual harassment, became standard practice in the American labor force, the wage gap gradually diminished. As of 2004, the average working woman earned 80 cents for every dollar that the average working man earned.
Becker, Susan D. The Origins of the Equal Rights Amendment: American Feminism Between the Wars. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1981.
Felder, Deborah G. A Century of Women: The Most Influential Events in Twentieth-Century Women's History. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp., 1999.
Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. New York: W.W. Norton, 2001.
Stetson, Dorothy M. Women's Rights in the U.S.A: Policy Debates and Gender Roles. New York: Routledge, 2004.
Ms. Magazine. 〈http://www.msmagazine.com/about.asp〉 (accessed April 17, 2006).
National Women's Political Caucus. 〈http://www.nwpc.org〉 (accessed April 17, 2006).
Equal Pay Act of 1963
Equal Pay Act of 1963
By: Edith Green and
Source: "Equal Pay Act of 1963."Pub. L.88–38(10 June 1963).
About the Author: Representative Edith Green, a Democrat from Oregon, and Representative Edith Rogers, a Republican from Massachusetts, wrote the first draft of the Equal Pay Act in 1955. Green served in the House of Representatives for the state of Oregon for twenty years, while Rogers served thirty-five years for Massachusetts, the longest tenure of any female representative in Congress.
Wisconsin passed the first piece of protective legislation for female workers in the United States; the 1867 law and others that followed assumed that women were less able to handle certain work because of physical differences between women and men and that women's health, pregnancy, and motherhood could be compromised by long work hours in poor settings. In the early 1900s as industrialization gained steam and families—including women and children— worked in factory settings, Progressive Era reformers sought to protect women and children from the worst abuses of the factory system. By 1912 twenty percent of women in the United States were in the labor force, a substantial labor shift that spurred states to pass protective laws for women and children that restricted work hours, shift lengths, and abuses.
Such legislation led to lower wages for women; employers argued that the legal restrictions on women's work made their work less valuable, and argued that as the "weaker" sex women's work was inherently less important than that of men, who were expected to support families. Protective legislation often created unequal labor conditions for men and women, in spite of reformers and legislators who worked to pass minimum wage laws for women.
World War I and World War II gave women an opportunity to fill jobs in traditionally male fields such as factory work, engineering, and auto mechanics; the United States government engaged in public relations campaigns such as "Rosie the Riveter" with the goal of changing public perception of factory jobs as men's work. The National War Labor Board recommended in 1942 that women receive equal pay for equal work in war industry jobs; the measure was voluntary and few employers followed through, but the suggestion helped to change attitudes concerning women's wages.
In 1955 Edith Rogers and Edith Green cowrote the first version of the Equal Pay Act, but struggled to find support for such a bill. President John F. Kennedy's President's Commission on the Status of Women, formed in 1961 to investigate issues such as employment, health, education, and law, opened discussion on the social and economic implications of women's work. Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt chaired the commission, and in 1963 issued a report detailing the need for improvements in antidiscrimination legislation, paid pregnancy and family leave, and the need for high-quality, affordable childcare. At the same time, Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, which included provisions for minimum wage laws that applied equally to men and women.
U. S. Code
Section 206. Minimum Wage
(d) Prohibition of sex discrimination
- No employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall discriminate, within any establishment in which such employees are employed, between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions, except where such payment is made pursuant to
- a seniority system;
- a merit system;
- a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or
- a differential based on any other factor other than sex: Provided, That an employer who is paying a wage rate differential in violation of this subsection shall not, in order to comply with the provisions of this subsection, reduce the wage rate of any employee.
- No labor organization, or its agents, representing employees of an employer having employees subject to any provisions of this section shall cause or attempt to cause such an employer to discriminate against an employee in violation of paragraph (1) of this subsection.
- For purposes of administration and enforcement, any amounts owing to any employee which have been withheld in violation of this subsection shall be deemed to be unpaid minimum wages or unpaid overtime compensation under this chapter.
- As used in this subsection, the term "labor organization" means any organization of any kind, or any agency or employee representation committee or plan, in which employees participate and which exists for the purpose, in whole or in part, of dealing with employers concerning grievances, labor disputes, wages, rates of pay, hours of employment, or conditions of work.
Additional Provisions of Equal Pay Act of 1963
To prohibit discrimination on account of sex in the payment of wages by employers engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That this Act may be cited as the "Equal Pay Act of 1963."
DECLARATION OF PURPOSE
Not Reprinted in U.S. Code [Section 2]
- The Congress hereby finds that the existence in industries engaged in commerce or in the production of goods for commerce of wage differentials based on sex—
- depresses wages and living standards for employees necessary for their health and efficiency;
- prevents the maximum utilization of the available labor resources;
- tends to cause labor disputes, thereby burdening, affecting, and obstructing commerce;
- burdens commerce and the free flow of goods in commerce; and
- constitutes an unfair method of competition.
It is hereby declared to be the policy of this Act, through exercise by Congress of its power to regulate commerce among the several States and with foreign nations, to correct the conditions above referred to in such industries.
[Section 3 of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 amends section 6 of the Fair Labor Standards Act by adding a new subsection (d). The amendment is incorporated in the revised text of the Fair Labor Standards Act.]
Not Reprinted in U.S. Code[Section 4]
The amendments made by this Act shall take effect upon the expiration of one year from the date of its enactment: Provided, That in case of employees covered by a bona fide collective bargaining agreement in effect at least thirty days prior to the date of enactment of this Act, entered into by a labor organization (as defined in section 6(d)(4) of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, as amended), the amendments made by this Act shall take effect upon the termination of such collective bargaining agreement or upon the expiration of two years from the date of enactment of this Act, whichever shall first occur.
Approved June 10, 1963, 12 m.
In 1963 the average working woman earned fifty-nine cents for every dollar earned by a man; the primary argument in the Equal Pay Act is the idea of equal pay for equal work. The 1963 Equal Pay Act did not provide employment protections or protection against gender-based employment discrimination; the Civil Rights Act of 1964, coming on the heels of the Equal Pay Act, added to legal protection for females in the labor force.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, created as part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, gave women legal recourse for violations of the Equal Pay Act and gender-based discrimination, forcing social norms in the workplace to change. From 1964 to 1971 back wages owed to women for gender-based pay inequities totaled more than $26 million dollars for more than 71,000 women. Court cases such asSchultz v. Wheaton Glass Co. andCorning Glass Works v. Brennanin the early 1970s banned the use of title changes to discriminate against workers; if two jobs have different titles but substantially similar responsibilities, the jobs must pay equal wages. In addition, paying women lower wages because they would accept them as part of the market rate was declared illegal and unacceptable.
The Equal Pay Act gave women legal standing for equal wages but also, in conjunction with the 1964 Civil Rights Act, helped to define and regulate sexual harassment in the workplace. One of the social consequences of legal protection against gender-based discrimination in wages and in treatment in the workplace was use of the courts to address sexual harassment; in 2005 more than 12,000 cases of sexual harassment were filed with the EEOC. Originally used by women workers against male coworkers who use sexual intimidation, language, gestures, or actions in the workplace, by 2005 nearly fifteen percent of all complaints were filed by male workers. Equal pay as well as gender-based discrimination protection has given women in the United States an expanded role in the workplace; from twenty percent of the workforce in 1912, women represented forty-six percent of all workers in 2004. As of 2004 the average working woman earned eighty cents for each dollar earned by men.
Becker, Susan D.The Origins of the Equal Rights Amendment: American Feminism Between the Wars. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1981.
Felder, Deborah G.A Century of Women: The Most Influential Events in Twentieth-Century Women's History. Kensington Publishing Corp., 1999.
Friedan, Betty.The Feminine Mystique. New York: W.W. Norton, 2001.
Stetson, Dorothy M.Women's Rights in the U.S.A: Policy Debates and Gender Roles. New York: Routledge, 2004.
Equal Opportunity Employment Commission. <http://www. eeoc.gov> (accessed May 19, 2006).
Equal Pay Act of 1963
Equal Pay Act of 1963
The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA) (P.L. No. 88-38, 77 Stat. 56, 59) prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of gender by compensating workers differently for jobs that require equal skill, effort and responsibility. In adopting the EPA, an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, Congress hoped to eliminate wage differentials because they were thought to depress wages and the standard of living, prevent maximum utilization of available labor resources, lead to labor disputes, and constitute an unfair method of competition. Congress also strove to eliminate stereotypes and misconceptions regarding the value of work performed by women.
Attempts to curb gender-based pay disparities in American industry were not new in 1963. In fact, during World War II (1939–1945), the War Labor Board declared and administered a policy of "equal pay for women." Prior to the passage of the EPA, several presidential administrations had proposed legislation to eliminate gender-based wage discrimination. They argued that employees doing equal work should be paid equal wages regardless of their gender.
Success finally came on February 14, 1963, when, in a letter to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the Secretary of Labor Willard Wirtz recommended enactment of "equal pay" legislation and submitted a draft bill. In its deliberations over the act, however, Congress purposely rejected the concept of "equal pay for comparable work" promoted by some advocates of this law, opting instead to adopt an "equal pay for equal work" formula. "Equal work" means jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort and responsibility and which workers perform under similar working conditions.
DETAILS OF THE EQUAL PAY ACT
Congress made this legislative choice because it worried that the adoption of a doctrine of comparable worth would ignore the economic realities of supply and demand. It would also burden government agencies and courts with the "impossible task of ascertaining the worth of comparable work, an area in which they have little expertise." Congress concluded, therefore, that government intervention to equalize wage differentials would only succeed where men's and women's jobs were identical or nearly so, thus unarguably of equal worth.
Section One of the act provided that those employers covered by the Fair Labor Standards Acts (FLSA) must provide equal pay for equal work regardless of gender, and Section Two of the bill amends the FLSA to state that wage differentials based solely on the gender of the employee are an unfair labor standard. Section Three lists special circumstances and exemptions to the act. Section Four, among other things, gives employers bound by collective bargaining agreements a one-year moratorium on enforcement, or until the collective bargaining agreement expired, whichever came first, before compliance was required.
Congress exempted several forms of discrimination from the operation of the EPA. These exceptions include shift differentials, restrictions on or differences based on the time of day worked, hours of work, and the lifting or moving of heavy objects. The EPA also excluded differences based on experience, training or ability, as well as unusual or higher than normal wage rates which employers maintained for valid reasons.
In addition the law exempts wage payments if made pursuant to a seniority system, a merit system, a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or one which creates a differential based on any factor other than sex. For example, differences in the employer's economic benefit received from the work performed can justify a wage differential. All of the occupational exemptions originally allowed for in the FLSA as a matter of political compromise also apply to the EPA, so workers in agriculture, hotels, motels, restaurants, and laundries, are excluded from the EPA, as are workers in professional, managerial and administrative occupations.
LITIGATION AND SUBSEQUENT LEGISLATION
In establishing the EPA, Congress provided employees with remedies for employer violations of the law, such as private enforcement in certain carefully defined situations. The legislation includes a comprehensive remedial scheme. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) currently enforces the EPA so that compliance with all employment-related laws prohibiting discrimination, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, may be coordinated.
Congress eventually broadened the EPA's coverage by the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, and sex, is broader than the EPA. Title VII is, in other words, a general anti-discrimination law covering more than just gender discrimination in pay.
Nevertheless, actions involving wage discrimination based on sex can be brought under both the EPA and Title VII. The standards for evaluation of claims under the two statutes, however, are not the same. There is, for example, no "equal work" requirement necessary to bring Title VII gender discrimination claims. Under the EPA, courts determine whether jobs are to be considered "equal work" on a case by case basis.
In sum, courts use many factors to determine similarities and differences between jobs which might establish a valid difference in pay regardless of gender. Generally, job classification systems make allowances for these factors. A job classification system that does not discriminate on the basis of gender will serve as a valid defense to a charge of discrimination.
See also: Civil Rights Acts of 1964; Fair Labor Standards Act; Pregnancy Discrimination Act.
Fogel, Walter A. The Equal Pay Act. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1984
Hewitt, Patricia. Rights for Women: A Guide to the Sex Discrimination Act, the Equal Pay Act, Paid Maternity Leave, Pension Schemed and Unfair Dismissal. London: National Council for Civil Liberties, 1975
Equal Pay Today
In 1963 women were paid fifty-nine cents on average for every dollar paid to men. Forty years later that figure has grown, but only to an average of seventy-six cents. The statistics are sobering:
Women with college educations earn only seventy-two cents for every dollar paid men. African-American women earn sixty-six cents; Hispanic women fifty-four cents.
A 2002 Government Accounting Office study found that full-time female managers earned less than men in each of the ten industries examined in the study. Furthermore, between 1995 and 2000, the wage gap between male and female managers had actually increased in seven of the ten industries.
According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, the average 25-year-old woman who works full time, year-round for 40 years will earn $523,000 less than the average 25-year-old man who does the same.
Two pieces of legislation have been proposed in recent years in attempt to redress the inequity. The Paycheck Fairness Act, sponsored by Senator Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), would increase penalties for equal pay violations and prohibit retaliation against whistle-blowers. The Fair Pay Act, sponsored in past years by Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), would prohibit wage discrimination based on sex, race, or national origin and require employers to provide equal pay for work of equal value, whether or not jobs are the same.
Equal Pay Act of 1963
EQUAL PAY ACT OF 1963
In an effort to end gender-based discrimination in labor wages, Congress enacted the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Pub. L. No. 88-38, 77 Stat. 56 (codified at 29 U.S.C.A. § 206(b)). The act established the requirement that women should receive "equal pay for equal work." However, the average wages given to women are still lower than those of men, and some critics have deemed the Equal Pay Act as a failure.
Congress had attempted on a number of occasions prior to 1963 to enact similar legislation. The idea for the statute arose during world war ii, when many women entered the workforce while men were overseas. The War Labor Board established a policy of "equal pay for women." According to its policy, women were to receive equal pay for work that was of "comparable quality and quantity" to the responsibilities of men. When members of Congress introduced legislation called the Women's Equal Pay Act of 1945, it contained the phrase "comparable work." This provision was the subject of a heated debate, and the bill failed to pass.
In the years that followed World War II, men reemerged as dominant figures in the workforce and attempts in Congress to enact an equal pay law stalled. During the early 1960s, however, Congress reconsidered the issue. When the phrase "equal work" was employed instead of "comparable work," the legislation garnered sufficient support to be enacted into law. The act amended the Fair Labor Standard Act of 1938, 29 U.S.C.A. §§ 201-209 (2000).
Congress stated that its intent in enacting the Equal Pay Act was to establish a "broad charter of women's rights," designed to remedy a "serious and endemic" problem of sex discrimination in the workplace. Under the act, employers are prohibited from discriminating against women on the basis of sex when women perform jobs requiring "equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions" as jobs performed by men. In order to recover under the act, a woman must prove that (1) an employer paid higher wages to men than to women; (2) male and female employees conduct an equal amount of work that requires substantially equal skill, effort, and responsibility; and (3) men and women performed the work under similar working conditions.
The act establishes four main defenses for employers. An employer may pay a male employee more than a female employee if the employer can establish that payment is based upon (1) a seniority system, (2) a merit system, (3) a system whereby earnings are based upon the quantity and quality of production by the employees, or (4) a differential based upon any other factor other than the sex of the employees. Although the first three of these defenses have been the subjects of litigation, the fourth exception has been litigated more frequently.
Lower federal courts have struggled with the so-called factor-other-than-sex defense, and the U.S. Supreme Court has rendered few decisions on the issue. In Corning Glass Works Co. v. Brennan 417 U.S. 188, 94 S. Ct. 2223, 41 L. Ed. 2d 1 (1974), the Court ruled that an employer's policy of paying men who worked during a night shift more than women who worked the same jobs during the day shift violated the act. The Court found that the policy was related to gender because the employer knew that women would work for less money. Three years later, in City of Los Angeles Department of Water & Power v. Manhart, 435 U.S. 702, 98 S. Ct. 7370, 55 L. Ed. 2d 657 (1977), the Court ruled that a policy requiring women to contribute more to their pension funds than men violated the act. The employer in the case based its policy on mortality tables indicating that women had a longer life span than men, so the women were required to pay higher rates for their pension funds. Since this policy was based on gender, the Court ruled that the employer had violated the act.
Lower federal courts have established a number of tests to determine whether an employer has adopted a wage policy based on a factor other than sex. Some circuits require an employer to demonstrate a gender-neutral wage policy that accounts for disparity in wages between men and women. Other circuits require an employer to show that the gender-neutral system of wages is based upon the performance of a woman's job duties or that a gender-neutral system was adopted to serve a legitimate business reason.
The application of the act is limited for other reasons as well. Several courts have noted that the Equal Pay Act does not establish a system of "comparable worth," because the act specifically applies to "equal work." EEOC v. Madison Community Unit School District No. 12, 818 F.2d 577 (7th Cir. 1987). Accordingly, courts must generally compare the wages of men and women performing the same jobs for the same company when considering a complaint brought under the act.
The limitations of the Equal Pay Act has led a number of commentators to criticize its provision and the application of the act in the courts. Many critics note that the wages of women are still significantly lower than those of men, even though employers have become more willing to hire women. In 1997, President bill clinton declared April 11, 1997 to be the "National Pay Inequity Awareness Day," which signified to these critics that serious problems in pay inequities still existed.
Friedman, Jack A. 1994. "Real Gender-Neutrality for the Factor-Other-Than-Sex Defense." New York Law School Journal of Human Rights 241.
Houghton, Kimberly J. 1999. "The Equal Pay Act of 1963: Where Did We Go Wrong?" Labor Lawyer 155.
Szul, Gregory. 1994–1995. "Sex Discrimination and the Equal Pay Act in Athletic Coaching." DePaul-LCA Journal of Art and Entertainment Law 161.
Equal Pay Act of 1963
EQUAL PAY ACT OF 1963
The Equal Pay Act of 1963, a federal U.S. law, was introduced and passed to ensure that women and men involved in the same job, with the same job description, got paid equally. The act was meant to address the wage gap between men and women. As the gap increased it became obvious that many women were excluded from certain jobs in order to maintain the status quo of men, and those women who did break into the business world were getting paid less than men doing the same job.
During World War II (1939–1945), many women answered the call of the U.S. government and went to work in droves to produce needed supplies for the war effort. Prior to World War II, many women were expected to stay home to tend to their households; after the war, however, women found that they enjoyed working outside their home, they needed the income, or they chose to work to supplement the family income for some of the extras that disposable income could provide. The U.S. Congress determined that different pay based on sex tended to cause many economic and social problems. Allowing wage differences based on sex kept the living standards low, prevented the workforce from reaching its full potential, and tended to cause labor disputes based on the inequity of pay. By requiring equal pay, families were able to buy more goods, thus boosting the economy.
During the 1970s two court cases further defined the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Schultz v. Wheaton Glass Company was heard by the Third Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, and Corning Glass Works v. Brennan was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court. In Schultz v. Wheaton, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals determined that jobs do not need to be identical but rather "substantially equal" in order to be protected under the Equal Pay Act.
Furthermore, in 1974 the Supreme Court determined in Corning Glass Works v. Brennan that women could not be paid less simply because they would work at a lower pay rate than men. At the same time the Supreme Court confirmed the constitutionality of the Equal Pay Act.
Even with the Equal Pay Act and the subsequent rulings by the Supreme Court and other lower courts, equity has not been reached between men and women. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women earned approximately 77¢ for every $1.00 their male counterpart earned in 2004.
see also Diversity in the Workplace; Sexual Harassment
Butts, Cassandra Q. (2004, May 7). Marching on for equal pay. Retrieved February 17, 2006, from Center for American Progress Web site: http://www.americanprogress.org/site/pp.asp?c=biJRJ8OVF&b=68060
U.S. Census Bureau. (2005, August 30). Income Stable, Poverty Rate Increases, Percentage of Americans Without Health Insurance Unchanged. (News Release). Retrieved March 1, 2006, from http://www.census.gov/Press-Release/www/releases/archives/income_wealth/005647.html
Lawrence F. Peters, Jr.
Equal Pay Act
EQUAL PAY ACT
EQUAL PAY ACT (1963). Legislation requiring equal pay for women was first introduced in 1945 in acknowledgment of women's war work. Business owners and labor organizations succeeded in thwarting the effort, in part because of the perceived need for women to leave the labor force to create vacancies for returning servicemen. By the end of the 1950s, policymakers were becoming concerned about insufficient use of "womanpower." Under the leadership of Esther Peterson, director of the Women's Bureau and an assistant secretary of labor in the administration of President John F. Kennedy, Congress in 1963 passed the Equal Pay Act as an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to require employers to pay equal wages to men and women doing "equal work on jobs …which[require] equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and are performed under similar working conditions." The Equal Pay Act was the first federal effort to bar discrimination by private employers on the basis of gender. Because the law was part of the Fair Labor Standards Act, wage and hour inspectors routinely reviewed company records and cited employers, rather than depending on complaints to alert them to violations. During the next decade 171, 000 employees received $84 million in back pay. In the 1970s, however, President Jimmy Carter's administration transferred enforcement to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which filed few Equal Pay Act cases. Because women and men seldom possess identical job classifications, the reach of the Equal Pay Act has been limited.
Kessler-Harris, Alice. A Women's Wage: Historical Meanings and Social Consequences. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1990.
Sealander, Judith. As Minority Becomes Majority: Federal Reaction to the Phenomenon of Women in the Workforce, 1920–1963. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1983.
Zelman, Patricia G. Women, Work, and National Policy: The Kennedy-Johnson Years. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press, 1982.