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NNEDV Commemorates Lilly Ledbetter Anniversary, Calls for Passage of Paycheck Fairness Act

January 29, 2021

Today, the National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) commemorates the twelfth anniversary of the enactment of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the landmark law that restored the rights of employees to have their day in court for ongoing wage discrimination that had been taken away by the Supreme Court in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. Despite the restoration of this law, wage discrimination and pay inequity persist because new tools are needed to combat the wage gap itself.

Women working full time, year-round are typically paid only 82 cents for every dollar paid to white, non-Hispanic men—and the gap widens even further for Black women (63 cents), Native women (60 cents), and Latinas (55 cents). While Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women make 87 cents for every dollar paid to men, women in many AAPI communities experience drastically wider pay gaps. While these numbers represent a nationwide wage gap, even when controlling for other factors, such as education and experience, the pay gaps persist, start very early in women’s careers, and contribute to a wealth gap that follows women throughout their lifetime, impacting social security and retirement.

For survivors of domestic violence, pay inequality can have devastating consequences. Survivors’ safety can be directly linked to their economic stability, and abusive partners often use financial abuse as a tactic for maintaining power and control over a victim. Limiting survivors’ access to financial resources and employment restricts their ability to leave an abusive partner and regain financial independence.

In addition, the financial effects of COVID-19 have fallen dramatically on women, particularly women of color who are more likely to be on the front lines of the crisis, while also being paid less than their male counterparts. In December 2020, women accounted for 100% of the jobs lost, with Black and Latina women disproportionately working in some of the hardest-hit sectors. These job losses present a crisis themselves and threaten to exacerbate gender wage gaps when women regain employment.

These pay gaps can be addressed only if workers have the legal tools necessary to challenge discrimination and employers are provided with effective incentives and technical assistance to comply with the law.

This week, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) took action to help rectify that by introducing the bipartisan Paycheck Fairness Act—a bill that would strengthen and amend the Equal Pay Act of 1963 to give workers stronger enforcement tools and remedies to help close, for once and for all, the pay gap between men and women. The bill would, among other things, make sure that employers could not pay men and women differently without a business justification and prohibit retaliation against workers who inquire about their employers’ wage practices or disclose their own wages.

“I was honored to stand by Lilly Ledbetter 12 years ago as we passed the bill that bears her name, but the struggle for women’s pay equity continues,” said Deborah J. Vagins, NNEDV President and CEO. “The ongoing crisis of COVID-19, and the nation’s economic fallout, have further exposed the already-existing inequities in our nation for women workers, particularly women of color, many of whom face pay inequality, job loss, lack of access to paid leave, low-wage work, and substantial risk to their own lives on the front lines. We need Congress to move swiftly to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and other critical employment protections.”

Increasing survivors’ economic stability is at the forefront of NNEDV’s work. Through our policy advocacy for women’s economic justice and programs like our Independence Project, which helps survivors improve their credit scores through micro-lending, we support survivors’ need to attain long-term financial security.  

For these reasons and more, there is no better time to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act and other employment legislation to honor the cause of Lilly Ledbetter and all those who have fought for equal pay. It’s time to provide survivors with the tools they need to achieve independence, stability, and financial security for themselves and their families.