Senator Kamala Harris Proposed a Radical Fix to the Gender Pay Gap

At a campaign rally in Los Angeles on Monday, Presidential hopeful Kamala Harris announced an aggressive proposal to fight the gender pay gap.

Harris’ plan would fine companies with 100 or more workers a one percent profit fine for every one percent wage gap they allow to persist. The campaign projects the fines would total $180 billion in the first decade—with dwindling amounts as companies begin to comply. The funds would be used to support paid family and medical leave under the FAMILY Act.

In order to avoid paying fines, companies would need to acquire an “equal pay certification” to be renewed every two years under the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Harris told the crowd that women who work full time earn 80 cents to every dollar men are paid, 61 cents for black women and 53 cents for Latinas.

“This has got to end, and it is an outrage,” said Harris.

Through this plan, Harris intends to put the responsibility on employers, rather than employees, to prove their pay is fair. Currently, the law puts the burden on individual employees to hold their employers accountable through expensive lawsuits.

“Too often, individual cases of discrimination go unnoticed or are too difficult or expensive to prove in court, and workers face increasingly high barriers in banding together to prove their claims,” said the campaign’s fact sheet.

The plan would also include other steps toward workplace equality, like banning forced arbitration for pay discrimination and requiring companies to report the percentage of women in leadership positions. Employers would also be barred from asking about salary history during job interviews. Federal contractors would have to prove equal pay certification to bid for contracts over $500,000.

Many of the Democratic presidential candidates have supported the FAMILY Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act, but Harris’ proposal goes even further.

Requiring employers to prove they’ve achieved equal pay is not a new idea. Iceland announced a similar, though perhaps stricter, plan in 2017 which went into effect last year. All companies with 25 or more employees must show a certificate proving they pay employees with similar roles equally, regardless of gender, race or sexuality. The law made Iceland the first country in the world to legally require proof of equal pay. The country plans to eliminate the gender pay gap by 2022, 164 years before the rest of the world.

Kamala Harris’ plan could put the United States on track to join Iceland’s progressive ranks.

Other countries have also made improvements to their equal pay laws in recent years but haven’t quite made the aggressive changes needed to close the pay gap. Germany, for example, enacted a new equal pay law in 2017, but the law was more focused on providing information to employers about pay rather than changing it.

U.S. women currently lose $840 billion a year because of the gender pay gap.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

55 comments

Jennifer H
Jennifer H7 days ago

Holy cow....I think I just read a comment that states men and women are paid equally in the US. Did that info come from Faux news? Equal pay has never happened and probably never will but it would be nice to at least make it fair.

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Ganaisha Calvin
Ganaisha Calvin14 days ago

in a perfect world we would equality across all genders and races

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Dan B
Dan Blossfeld26 days ago

Annabel B.,
The child issue is not likely to go away anytime soon, and will remain has the largest contributor to the gender pay gap. For some, it is voluntary; for others, not so. Thanks for your discussions on this topic.

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini26 days ago

Dan B
Thanks. So according to this article the most credible figures put the wage gap at 2%. Small, but a gap nevertheless. One problem that comes out clearly is that, as far as wages are concerned, women pay the price for having children. Equal parenting duties would fix this problem, but how likely is it that those will become the norm in male-dominated power structures? However large or small the actual wage gap is, the fact remains that it is more difficult for women to get the higher paid jobs, even in sectors where they are competing with equal qualifications. Sorry I haven't time to research this but I hear it time and time again.

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Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld27 days ago

Annabel B.,

It has been reposted here:

https://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2019/05/28/kamala_harriss_equal_pay_hoax_140426.html

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini27 days ago

Dan B
I can't read it unless I sign up, which I don't want to do. Pity.

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Dan B
Dan Blossfeld27 days ago

Annabel B.,

Here is an editorial from the Boston Globe.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2019/05/27/kamala-harris-equal-pay-hoax/3NGfigd7IBXrxUVxr0UeTL/story.html

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Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeldabout a month ago

Annabel B.,
Yes, it did not expound much on the career track issue. I wish they would have explained it more.

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bediniabout a month ago

Dan B
That's an interesting article which explains things well. The only thing I would point out though is that it says 'Even within the same major men and women often end up on different career tracks, resulting in a pay gap that could follow them for a lifetime. In our sample, across the 50 most common majors, men and women face an 11.5 percent pay gap on average in the first five years of their careers.'
I fear the problem is that even when women study for, and enter into, the higher-paying professions, the jobs they are offered are at the lower paid end. And promotion is more difficult. Sad, but true.

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Winn A
Winn Adamsabout a month ago

I like her ideas.

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