President Barack Obama will sign two new executive orders on equal pay for women Tuesday, Politico reports. The executive actions coincide with "Equal Pay Day" -- the date that symbolizes how far into 2014 women must work to earn the same amount of money men earned last year.
Both executive orders mirror provisions of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which Congress has twice failed to pass. One would prohibit federal contractors from retaliating against employees who share their salary information with each other. The provision is inspired by Lilly Ledbetter, the namesake of the first bill Obama signed on equal pay in 2009, who worked for nearly 20 years at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. before discovering that men in her same job with equal or lesser experience were earning significantly more money than she was.
The second executive order will instruct the Department of Labor to create new regulations requiring federal contractors to report wage-related data to the government, in the hope that it will hold them more accountable for salary differences based on sex or race.
Women who work full time in the U.S. make an average of 77 cents for every dollar men make -- a number that has remained stagnant for a decade. Researchers who have taken into account factors that may contribute to that gap, including industry, education, college major and location, still find that men get paid 7 percent more than women, according to the American Association of University Women, a non-profit that works to increase equity for women and girls. The gap widens over the course of a woman's career, especially if she has a college degree.
AAUW called Obama's actions "a victory for working families nationwide."
"AAUW applauds the president for ensuring these workers have the freedom to talk about their salaries without fear — a kind of openness that can help close the gender pay gap," said Lisa Maatz, vice president of government relations for the group. "The executive order also sends a clear message to companies awarded government contracts that they cannot discriminate with taxpayer money."
Meanwhile, the Senate will vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act Tuesday, even though the GOP-controlled House is unlikely to bring it to the floor. The bill would codify Obama's two executive orders, which only apply to federal contractors, for most other employers. It would also strengthen penalties for equal pay violations and require employers to demonstrate that salary differences among male and female employees doing the same work are based on factors other than sex.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the ranking member on the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, made it clear at a hearing last week that he opposes the bill. He called it a political move by the Democrats that would only result in "more lawsuits," not equal pay for women.
"We have great differences of opinion here," he told colleagues.