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PRESS RELEASE
6-10-13

Equal Pay Act Signed 50 Years Ago Today

Despite 50 Years of Progress, Wage Gap Between Men and Women Still Exists, Gender-based Pay Discrimination an Enforcement Priority for EEOC

WASHINGTON - In the 50 years since President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, women's pay has risen significantly, but still lags that of men, making the elimination of gender-based pay discrimination a priority for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency reaffirmed today. The EEOC took over enforcement of the Equal Pay Act from the Department of Labor in 1978.

"Although the progress of the last 50 years is undeniable, pay discrimination remains a pressing problem for women in America," EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien said in a statement released today. "In 2012 women generally earned 77 percent of men's wages, and for African American women and Latinas, the number is even lower. At the rate at which we are progressing the gender pay gap will not close until 2057."

The EEOC made enforcing equal pay laws one of its six priorities in its Strategic Enforcement Plan which presented agency priorities for fiscal years 2013-2016. The EEOC is also a key member of the National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force, launched by President Obama to "improve compliance, public education, and enforcement of equal pay laws." As part of the Task Force, the EEOC is working to improve interagency coordination and strengthen enforcement of wage discrimination laws, and to increase outreach, education and public awareness concerning compensation discrimination.

As part of its efforts, the White House Task Force released a document today Fifty Years After the Equal Pay Act. Additionally, the White House launched website with information about equal pay and links to the websites of EEOC and other government agencies with enforcement authority over our nation's equal pay laws.

From the establishment of the National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force in January 2010 through the end of March 2013, the EEOC obtained over $78 million in monetary relief for victims of sex-based wage discrimination. During the same period, the EEOC received almost 20,000 charges of wage discrimination generally, of which 9,000 or 45 percent alleged wage discrimination on the basis of sex. These numbers, however, most likely do not fully reflect the extent of the pay discrimination problem in U.S. workplaces. Very few people are aware of what their co-workers earn, and therefore most people do not know when they are being paid in a discriminatory manner. This is why the EEOC is utilizing its directed investigation authority under the Equal Pay Act to pursue evidence of pay discrimination as appropriate.

The EEOC has filed a number of law suits challenging pay discrimination. Some examples include EEOC v. Forrest City Grocery (settled in 2011 for $125,000); EEOC v. National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) (settled for $171,483 in 2011); EEOC v. Hyundai Ideal Electric Company (settled for $188,000 in 2011); and EEOC v. Texas Department of Rural Affairs (joint action with the Department of Justice, settled for $175,000 in 2012).

The EEOC enforces the national employment discrimination laws. More information about the EEOC can be found at www.eeoc.gov.