March 26, 2021
The House Education and Labor Committee passed the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would significantly weaken employer defenses to gender pay equity lawsuits. The committee rejected an HR Policy-supported substitute proposal by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) that would reduce liability for companies that engage in self-audits and make subsequent corrections.
The Paycheck Fairness Act passed 25–22 along party lines. Ranking Member Virginia Foxx (R-NC) said Rep. Stefanik's amendments would have “provided both employees and employers protections during salary negotiations,” noting in a press release that the bill would expose employers to "frivolous lawsuits and an almost impossible burden of proof."
The measure would strengthen the ability of employees to bring successful lawsuits alleging pay discrimination, significantly increase monetary remedies, and facilitate more class action lawsuits. It abandons the current standard of justifying pay differentials on the basis of “any other factor other than sex,” and instead would require employers to show that such differentials are due to a “bona fide factor other than sex, such as education, training, or experience.” A full breakdown of the bill and what it means for employers can be found here.
The HR Policy-supported Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was also passed by the committee, with five Republicans voting in support. The bill would require companies to provide “reasonable workplace accommodations for workers whose ability to perform the functions of a job is limited by pregnancy, childbirth, or a related medical condition.”
Looking ahead: The Committee's approval of the bills sets up a House floor vote on the measures in the second half of April, after the Easter recess. If they pass the House as expected, they face an uphill battle in the Senate, where they need 10 Republican votes to overcome a filibuster.