Equal Pay & Paycheck Fairness Act: Good research topics

The topic of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 could discuss the progress that has been made. (Credit: publichealthwatch)

The topic of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 could discuss the progress that has been made. (Credit: publichealthwatch)

With the failure to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and the recent recognition of Equal Pay Day, a good research paper topic might be to discuss the sociology, politics or economics of equal pay for equal work. In the United States, women earn on average $0.77 for every $1.00 a man earns for the same job, according to the Obama Administration. The Pew Research Center puts the figure at $0.84. History has shown that despite passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, women are still struggling for equal pay. Here are some ideas for your term paper.

Equal Pay Act of 1963

American women thought they were through struggling for equal pay when President John F. Kennedy passed the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The law made it illegal for employers to discriminate between men and women in the same establishment who perform jobs that require substantially equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions. Obviously, the law did not remove all pay discrimination for women.

Equal Pay Day

Fifty years later, the date April 16, 2014, is called Equal Pay Day. The date was set to mark how far into the new year a woman has to work to earn the same as a man did in 2013. Speaking on Equal Pay Day, President Obama was quoted in the Legislative Gazette as saying: “In 2014, that’s an embarrassment. It is wrong. And this is not just an issue of fairness. It’s also a family issue and an economic issue, because women make up about half of our workforce and they’re increasingly the breadwinners for a whole lot of families out there. So when they make less money, it means less money for gas, less money for groceries, less money for child care, less money for college tuition, less money is going into retirement savings.” Tanique Williams posted the quote in “Lawmakers fight pay discrimination on two fronts,” April 14, 2014.

Senate hears Paycheck Fairness Act

In April 2014, the U.S. Senate discussed the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would add to the Equal Pay Act by making wages more transparent, requiring employers to prove that wage discrepancy is not gender based and prohibiting employers from taking retaliatory action against women who question gender-based wage disparity.

Democrats voted for the bill, but every Republican Senator blocked passage of the act. Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan said that it was outrageous that in 2014 some members of Congress still think it’s acceptable for a woman to be paid less for doing the same job.

Republicans, however, say it’s an issue of litigation and proof. Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus wrote in “Marcus: Good reasons to oppose the Paycheck Fairness Act,” posted in The Columbian, April 18, 2014: “The [Act] presents more complicated questions about proof and damages. In brief, the bill would make it harder for employers to rebut claims of gender-based pay discrimination.” Today, employers who face claims of pay discrimination can say the pay differential is based on any factor other than gender.

“The [Act] would tighten that gaping exception to require that it relate to ‘bona fide factors, such as education, training or experience.’ Likewise, the measure would make it easier for plaintiffs to collect not only back pay but compensatory and punitive damages. A third change would protect employees who discuss their compensation from being punished by their employer,” said Marcus.

How women can earn equal pay

Here are some suggestions on how women can work toward earning higher salaries.

  • Put in the hours. Men tend to get higher salaries because they take less time off from their career. Women take maternity leave, stay home with a sick child and leave early. Women on a career track should expect to put in long hours. To do that…
  • Hire-out family duties. “Hire-out what would take you 20 to 30 hours a week to do and put those 20 to 30 hours into becoming among the best in your field. For example, hire out everything that is repetitive and unskilled that you do not enjoy doing (cleaning, laundry, shopping, errands, repairs, lawn mowing, weeding),” suggested Warren Farrell in the 2005 book “Why Men Earn More: The Startling Truth behind the Pay Gap—And What Women Can Do about It.”
  • Become a better negotiator. Don’t be afraid to negotiate your first salary with a company. Do your homework on the job description, explain why you’re worth the amount you want to be paid and tell the employer what you are able to contribute to the company.

For more information on the issues of equal pay for women, check out Questia’s Economics and Business or Women in Business libraries. 

What do you think the pros and cons are for the Paycheck Fairness Act? Tell us in the comments.

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