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Equal pay bill blocked in U.S. Senate

A recent bill that would have narrowed the income gap between men and women has been blocked in the U.S. Senate. Democrats are accusing Republicans of dealing in election-year tactics to deny women a fair chance to make a good living (or at least as much as the average male).

According to an Associated Press report, Republican lawmakers indicated that the proposal could prevent employers from granting wages, and hinder efforts to create flexible working hours. Moreover, they ostensibly feared a tidal wave of equal pay lawsuits if employers, for legitimate reasons, did not follow the law.

The new bill was poised to tightening the loopholes unfortunately created in the 1963 Equal Pay act, which prohibits employers to pay men and women differently for comparable jobs based solely on gender. As the law is written, employers can still rely on the loopholes in justifying pay discrepancies, and they may punish employees who share salary information. The bill would also make class-action lawsuits based on pay inequities easier. If such a lawsuit was brought, plaintiffs could seek punitive damages through the proposed law.

This is the third time that such a reform bill has failed. Similar efforts in 2010 and 2012 were also unsuccessful.

Nevertheless, employees in California who believe that they are being discriminated against because of their gender can still seek justice through a lawsuit. A conversation with an experienced employment law attorney is helpful in understanding what their rights are, as well as what is needed for a successful challenge.

Source: ABC “GOP block Senate bill curbing gender pay gap,” Alan Fram, April 9, 2014

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