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Statement on Equal Pay Day April 17, 2012

Jacqueline A. Berrien, Chair
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Today is Equal Pay Day, which is the annual recognition of the date on which a woman's average earnings equal a man's average earnings in the prior year. Despite almost 50 years of enforcement of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, wage disparities between men and women have not yet been eliminated.

When President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act in 1963, he said that it "affirms our determination that when women enter the labor force, they will find equality in their pay envelope." At that time, women accounted for less than 35% of the labor force and their median pay was approximately 58.9% of men's.

Today, women are nearly half of the workforce, and their wages have risen to roughly 78% of those of men. While the pay gap has narrowed, it persists for every age group and in every job category, including those dominated by women. This is true whether women hold advanced degrees or a high school diploma. The gap is particularly severe for women of color: African-American women receive 61 cents and Hispanic or Latina women earn just 52 cents for every dollar earned by men.

For nearly 50 years, the EEOC has been at the forefront of the federal government's effort to secure equal pay for women. As part of the National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force created by President Obama, the Commission has undertaken important efforts to raise awareness and strengthen enforcement of wage discrimination laws in the past year:

  • During fiscal year 2011 the EEOC obtained $30.9 million in monetary benefits for victims of compensation discrimination and received 1,960 new charges alleging sex-based wage discrimination;
  • EEOC and the Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) revised their Memorandum of Understanding to streamline collaboration in enforcement, and entered into pilot programs in several regions to improve enforcement of laws prohibiting compensation discrimination and expand outreach;
  • The EEOC trained more than 2,000 intake workers, investigators and attorneys from the EEOC, OFCCP, the Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor, and state and local Fair Employment Practice agencies on identification, investigation and remediation of compensation discrimination; and
  • Conducted informational programs and training on equal pay issues for nearly 3,000 members of the public, stakeholder groups and employer representatives in dozens of cities across the county.

The EEOC's mission is ending and remedying unlawful discrimination. That is why, although we commemorate Equal Pay Day today, we must work diligently every day to ensure that earnings are never depressed because of a worker or job applicant's sex.