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Domestic violence victims often cite lack of employment and financial security as barriers to leaving an abusive relationship and many abusers control the relationship by limiting the victim’s access to financial resources and employment.  Too often victims must choose between staying in an abusive relationship or facing economic hardship when leaving.  NNEDV supports policies that assist survivors of domestic violence move from short-term safety to long-term security, and to an economically sustainable independent life.

Among the economic challenges facing domestic violence victims, wage discrimination and pay inequality continue to be barriers for victims striving to be economically independent and to break free from a cycle of violence.

Scope of Wage Discrimination

  • In 1963 women earned 59 cents for every dollar earned by men and in 2007 women still earned only 78 cents for every dollar earned by a male counterpart.
  • Based on the median earnings of full-time, year-round workers, women's earnings were $35,102 compared to men's earnings of $45,113.
  • The wage gap costs the average American full-time woman worker between $700,000 and $2 million over the course of her lifetime.
  • A wage gap exists across many occupations.  For example, in 2005 the median weekly wages for female physicians were 61% of that earned by male physicians.  Women in sales earned 63% of what men in the equivalent positions earned.
  • Women and men do not have equal pay in any of the states.  Since 2001 Washington, D.C has the smallest wage gap at 92% while Wyoming has the biggest gap with 66%.

The Lilly Ledbetter Act

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (H.R. 11), sponsored by Representative George Miller (D-CA) was passed by the House and Senate and signed into law by President Obama on January 20, 2009.

Background information on the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009

  • After working for Goodyear Tire Plant for almost 20 years, Lilly Ledbetter discovered through an anonymous note that her male counterparts were getting paid between 15% and 40% more than her.
  • In 1998 Ms. Ledbetter filed a lawsuit against Goodyear.
  • Goodyear was found guilty of discrimination and in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibiting discrimination against individuals because of race, color, national origin, religion and sex.
  • Goodyear won an appeal by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals and the case was heard before the Supreme Court.
  • The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that a pay discrimination complaint must be filed within about six months of the first time a worker gets a discriminatory paycheck and that Ms. Ledbetter's complaint exceeded the statute of limitations.

What will the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act do?

  • This law will reverse the outcome in the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Supreme Court decision that puts a limitation on the time available to rectify pay discrimination.
  • The law will restore the longstanding interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and other discrimination statues, protecting women from being discriminated against in the workplace.

The Paycheck Fairness Act

The Paycheck Fairness Act in the 112th Congress (H.R. 1519/S. 797), was sponsored by Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD).

Background information on the Paycheck Fairness Act

  • The Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 12/S. 182), was first introduced in 2009 during the 111th Congress.  The bill was sponsored by Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and then-Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY).  The bill successfully passed in the House of Representatives but did not pass in the Senate.

  • Only July 20, 2010 President Obama called on Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.  The President’s statement is available here.

  • This bill would enhance the enforcement of the Equal Pay Act.
  • Would require a stronger commitment from the Department of Labor in its responsibilities to women workers.
  • Would create strong penalties for employers who continue to discriminate against women through wage disparity.
  • Employees would be protected from retaliation from their employer if they share salary information.
  • Currently the Equal Pay Act only provides back pay and double that amount for a willful violation if the employer is found guilty of discrimination.  The Paycheck Fairness Act would allow female employees to sue for compensatory and punitive damages.
  • Would provide training to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission employees on matters involving discrimination in payment of wages (subject to availability of funds).
  • Would authorize the Secretary of Labor to establish a grant program to train women and girls to strengthen their negotiations skills to receive the best salaries and compensation packages available.
  • Would provide research, education and outreach for employers, labor organizations and the public about ways to eliminate pay disparities.
  • Would require the Secretary of Labor to develop guidelines for employers to objectively evaluate jobs based on education, skill, working conditions and responsibility.

Legislative Action on the Paycheck Fairness Act in the 112th Congress

  • This bill was introduced in the House (H.R. 1519) by Rep. Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT-3) on April 13, 2011 and currently has 170 cosponsors.  On May 20, 2011 it was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
  • The Senate bill (S. 797) was introduced by Senator Barbara Mikulski on April 12, 2011 and currently has 31 cosponsors.  It has been referred to the the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee.