[Excerpt] Today marks the 7-year anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the first major piece of legislation President Obama signed into law. The Act extended the time period in which claimants can bring pay discrimination claims, enabling victims of pay discrimination to seek redress when they otherwise could not. In spite of this legislation and other actions taken by the Administration to support working women, a gap persists in the wages earned by men and women. In 2014, median earnings for a woman working full-time all year in the United States totaled only 79 percent of the median earnings of a man working full-time all year. Phrased differently, she earned 79 cents for every dollar that he earned.
By expanding the time period for filing pay discrimination claims, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act changed the legal process around claims of gender discrimination, one of many factors contributing to the pay gap. For years Lilly Ledbetter was paid at least 15 percent less than the lowest-paid man in her equivalent position. She filed a lawsuit, which eventually reached the Supreme Court, but was not awarded damages due to the expiration of the statute of limitations for claims of that type. Her experience was the motivating factor behind the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
The gender wage gap has many causes and contributors, including differences in education, experience, occupation and industry, and family responsibilities. But even after accounting for these factors, a gap still remains between men’s earnings and women’s earnings. On the anniversary of this important legislation, this issue brief explores the state of the gender wage gap, the factors that influence it, and policy implications.