White House Commits to Aggressive Action on Women’s Agenda

White House Commits to Aggressive Action on Women’s Agenda

Led by Vice President Joe Biden at an event hosted by the Middle Class Task Force, the Obama Administration today laid out an ambitious cross-agency agenda to pursue women’s equality in the workplace through the Paycheck Fairness Act and stronger enforcement of the Family Medical Leave Act and Executive Order 11246 for equal opportunity in federally funded contracting. See action plan.

President Obama issued a statement earlier in the day to “encourage the Senate to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.” Biden told those at the event, “Today we’re on the cusp of having a fundamental change take place as we did with the civil rights acts.” He pleaded with his former Senate colleagues to “get on the right side of history. Pass this act.”

Secretary Solis said the Women’s Bureau will host forums nationally and around the country to collect ideas and best practices on workplace flexibility. Through a collaborative effort among the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, the Department of Justice and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the administration will ensure strategic enforcement of pay discrimination cases. In addition to hiring nearly 200 additional enforcement staff, OFCCP will publish an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking early next year that will seek input from stakeholders on how to improve the Equal Opportunity survey. The Labor Department's Women's Bureau will also launch new public education efforts including an Equal Pay Checklist, a revamped Equal Pay Employer Self-Audit tool, and an Equal Pay Research Summit.

In 2011, the Wage and Hour Division will conduct a new FMLA survey that will show how families use leave, providing baseline data on workplace policies and practices leading to possible new regulations, Solis said. FMLA enforcement will include leave for workers caring for extended family such as grandparents and all workers, including LGBT parents, serving “in loco parentis” for children, according to Solis.

In addition, the Women’s Bureau will sponsor a supplement to the BLS American Time Use Survey that will gather more information on parental leave, child care, elder care, family leave insurance program usage and related issues.

WOW Executive Director Joan Kuriansky said, “The new vigor around work-life issues by this Administration, through the combined effort of many agencies as well as inter-agency task forces, will contribute to basic economic security for all women and families whose disposable income can be diminished if they have to miss work to care for dependents or if discrimination keeps them from jobs in nontraditional occupations.” During the 2009 transition, WOW hosted a briefing for incoming Obama Administration officials that recommended many of the proposals acted on today.

“We are particularly gratified that the Administration is looking at the impact of equal pay and workplace flexibility from the perspective of women and families throughout their lifetime. To that end, the Administration’s intent to collect better data that includes information on age and race as well as gender will provide needed information to make policies work for all families,” said Kuriansky.

Speaking in advance of the Vice President, Lilly Ledbetter recounted the story of her own paycheck discrimination when she was paid 40% less as a first line manager for B.F. Goodrich for all of her working life. Because her Social Security and retirement plan contributions were based on a percentage of her earnings, she said her income was diminished after she retired and dropped another 50% when her husband died in December 2008. She said she would have been fired had she asked her employer where she stood on the company’s pay scale when needed to earn more to send her children to college. In contrast, “The EEOC is teaching classes on pay discrimination now in Alabama,” she said. The Paycheck Fairness Act will make retaliation for discussing wages with coworkers illegal.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced the Justice Department would join with the Equal Opportunity Commission, DOL, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs and other federal offices to coordinate investigations. They will conduct a pilot program investigating state and local employers. “Equal pay is a civil rights issue,” he said.

“The Administration is poised to take action to ensure that women doing the same work as men get paid at the same rate. It is time for Congress to do the same and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act,” said Kuriansky.

Co-hosted by the White House Council on Women and Girls, the purpose of the briefing was to announce the recommendations by the President’s Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force to members of Congress and representatives of women’s and civil rights groups and “to discuss the Administration’s ongoing commitment to improving work-family balance for all Americans.” Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett, White House Domestic Policy Council Director Melody Barnes and EEOC Chair Jacqueline Berrien also participated.


Founded in 1964, one year after enactment of the Equal Pay Act, Wider Opportunities for Women works nationally and in its home community of Washington, DC , to achieve economic independence and equality of opportunity for women and their families at all stages of life. For over 45 years, WOW has been a leader in the areas of nontraditional employment, job training and education, welfare to work and workforce development policy.