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Democrats introduce equal pay legislation 10 years after passing first fair pay act

Speaker Nancy Pelosi Holds Press Conference To Reintroduce Paycheck Fairness Act
Women's equality activist Lilly Ledbetter speaks as Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi and other Democratic congressional members listen during a news conference at the Capitol on Jan. 30, 2019 in Washington, D.C. Getty Images

House Democrats were joined by Lilly Ledbetter, the namesake of the fair pay act signed by President Obama in 2009, to introduce supplemental legislation they say gives women "new tools" to challenge the gender pay gap. The Paycheck Fairness Act would close loopholes in the 1963 Equal Pay Act, which prohibited discrimination by gender, by protecting employees from retaliation for discussing salaries and limiting the use of wage history in the hiring process.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which overturned a Supreme Court decision that restricted the time period for filing complaints of employment discrimination concerning compensation, was the first bill signed by Obama on Jan. 29, 2009.

The Paycheck Fairness Act, which is sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., addresses modern-day salary imbalances between men and women, which can be exacerbated when women are unaware of their male coworkers' salaries. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, said while introducing the bill that women could use a Google sheet to share salaries. Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive and the most famous new member of Congress, added that equal pay was a "generational issue."

Ocasio-Cortez tweeted after the news conference announcing the bill that "if "the wage gap is a myth" as some allege, then workplaces should have no problem with workers disclosing our salaries with one another."

The legislation would also prohibit employers from considering salary history as the basis for salaries, encourage pay equity, and help employers develop fair pay practices.

Ledbetter said that the Fair Pay Act, signed by President Kennedy, was the "first step but not the last," as it "did not give women new tools to challenge the gap."

"We cannot subject another generation of women to this injustice," Ledbetter said.

The Paycheck Fairness Act will also require the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to collect compensation data from employers in order to increase pay transparency and reveal pay discrimination.

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