Councilmembers Cheh, Silverman, Alexander, Nadeau, Bonds, and May co-introduce bill to close gaps in enforcement of gender-based wage discrimination
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, February 2nd, Councilmember Mary M. Cheh (D – Ward 3), Chair of the Committee on Transportation & the Environment, introduced the “Equal Pay Amendment Act of 2016.” Introduced with the support of every female Councilmember, this bill closes a number of gaps in the Human Rights Act of 1977 that impede enforcement on gender-based wage discrimination cases.
“While the District is often touted as having the smallest wage gap in the country between men and women, this standard of equality is nonexistent for women of color. African American women in the District make only 55.6 cents for every dollar that their white, male counterparts make. It is time to close the gender-based pay gap for all women,” said Councilmember Cheh.
The bill does the following:
• Requires employers to pay an equal wage for “substantially similar” work rather than “substantially equal” work. Historically, courts have interpreted “substantially equal” very narrowly, and at the federal level, many claims are struck down for not meeting this standard. This new definition will remove the burden of needing different jobs to be nearly identical for a discrimination claim to move forward.
• Clearly states that an employer bears the burden of showing that a factor separate from sex is related to paying employees unequal wages. An employer must demonstrate that unequal wages are the result of differences in bona fide factors such as education, training, or experience and that those factors advance a legitimate business purpose.
• Requires employers to maintain records of the wages paid to employees. Such record-keeping will increase transparency, making it easier to determine when wage discrimination is taking place. This follows the federal trend of demanding greater wage transparency.
• Modifies the statute of limitations for discovery of wage discrimination so that the statute of limitations shall renew each time a discriminatory paycheck is issued. This is an additional protection for employees who may not immediately discover discrimination.
• Requires contractors with the District to certify compliance with the provisions of the DC Human Rights Act that prohibit discrimination.
“The benefits of this legislation will apply to all of the 15 protected classes within the Human Rights Act. And, by closing a number of gaps in the current law, this bill creates a fairer legal process for victims of discrimination and will once again secure the District’s role as a leader in valuing work equally,” said Councilmember Cheh.