The Equal Pay Act of 1963 requires employers to pay employees equal pay for equal work, regardless of the employee’s sex. So long as a job requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and is performed under similar working conditions, the employer must provide the same rate of pay to men and women who perform jobs that are substantially equal. It is job content—not job titles—that determines whether jobs are substantially equal.
Although this landmark law helped close the pay gap, improvements are necessary to make this civil rights act more effective. Women continue to earn less than their male counterparts. In 2011, the Census Bureau reported that women working full time earned on average 23 percent less than similarly situated men. Thus, for every dollar earned by a man, a woman doing equal work earned only 77 cents. The gap is substantially worse for women of color, with African American women earning 64 cents and Hispanic women earning 55 cents to every dollar earned by Caucasian men.
Leviticus 19:13 commands: “You shall not defraud your neighbor, nor rob him…” Paying women less money for the same work as men is morally and legally wrong. Eliminating the pay gap not only remedies discrimination, it is good for families and for business. Working families lose $200 billion in income annually to the wage gap. If the wage gap were eliminated, annual family incomes would increase by $4,000, cutting the poverty rate by half. According to U.S. Census data, by the age of 65 years, the average working woman would have lost more than $430,000 over her working lifetime. Unequal pay throughout women’s working lives results in lower social security earnings thus contributing to impoverishment for older women. Forward looking employers recognize that eliminating pay differentials makes good business sense. Pay equity can help with competitiveness, worker retention, and productivity.
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs believes that:
- Pay discrimination is wrong.
- Pay disparity based on gender and on race within gender categories persists, generally and in the Jewish community as evidenced by a recent analysis of the 2012 Jewish Communal Professional Compensation Survey.
- The pay gap hurts women individually and it hurts their families by reducing their economic security.
- By institutionalizing inequality the pay gap also hurts our communities and our nation.For reasons of social justice, morality and Jewish law, we should address pay discrimination by ensuring fair pay.
- Measures to strengthen the Equal Pay Act would help achieve fair pay.
- Paycheck fairness legislation not only addresses a civil rights injustice but also a major barrier to women’s economic security throughout their lives.
The community relations field should:
- Support strengthening and expanding existing federal laws aimed at preventing wage discrimination.
- Advocate for legislation and policies that a strengthen the Equal Pay Act by taking meaningful steps to create incentives for employers to follow the law, educate, and empower women to negotiate for equal pay, and strengthen federal outreach and enforcement efforts. We support legislation that would deter pay discrimination by strengthening penalties for equal pay violations and by prohibiting retaliation against workers who inquire about employers’ pay practices or disclose their own wages.
- Commit to advocating for laws, policies and employment practices that ensure equal pay for work of comparable worth.
- Work to ensure fair pay for women within our own Jewish communal institutions.
- Call on JCPA members to develop or participate in local equivalents of the national Jewish Communal Professional Compensation Survey and to examine their own policies to ensure that they provide fair pay.