Bills to address workplace discrimination being considered on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Lawmakers on Friday discussed four different bills focused on employee protections.

Nearly 60 years after the Equal Pay Act passed, women still earn an average of 82 cents on the dollar compared to white men. Black women earn even less — 63 cents on the dollar, according to the National Women’s Law Center.

“The wage gap persists in nearly every line of work,” said Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.)

The Paycheck Fairness Act would require employers to prove that any pay disparities exist for legitimate reasons, and would develop wage data collection systems.

Other legislation aims to give more protections to pregnant women.

“No one should have to choose between a paycheck and a healthy pregnancy,” said Fatima Goss Graves of the National Women’s Law Center.

Dina Bakst, with the advocacy group A Better Balance, said new moms should have the time and space to pump breast milk at work.

“Women who are fired or forced out instead of being granted temporary or reasonable accommodations,” she said.

Another bill aims to fight age discrimination in the workplace by clarifying the language of the current law.

“Ageism in our culture remains stubbornly entrenched,” said Laurie McCann of the AARP Foundation.

Some lawmakers, including Rep. Russ Fulcher (R-Idaho), cautioned against the changes.

“Good intentions don’t always bring good policy,” he said.

Opponents warned some of the proposals could lead to frivolous lawsuits and argued the Paycheck Fairness Act pushes a one-size-fits-all solution for employers.

“H.R. 7 goes too far by prohibiting an employer from considering prior salary information volunteered by the applicant,” said employment attorney Camille Olson.