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Louis Jacobson
By Louis Jacobson May 27, 2021

Paycheck Fairness Act passes House

The House has passed pay equality legislation backed by Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential campaign, but the bill now faces a difficult road in the Senate.

As a presidential candidate, Biden endorsed the Paycheck Fairness Act, the measure that came to a vote in the House on April 15. 

That bill, sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., would limit an employer's legal defense against gender-based pay-discrimination lawsuits to "bona fide job-related factors." It would also strengthen non-retaliation protections for workers who complain about pay discrimination and increase civil penalties for employers' violations, among other provisions.

"We must enact the Paycheck Fairness Act to both close the worsening pay gap and protect and empower women as they reenter the job force," DeLauro said in introducing her bill. "This legislation is long overdue."

Republicans expressed concerns about the bill from the start. When the bill was being considered by the House Education and Labor Committee, the panel's senior Republican, Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, called it "a dangerous bill that will allow trial lawyers to fleece business owners around the country."

In addition, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, an influential business lobbying group, sent a letter to House members before the vote saying it "strongly opposes" the bill.

In the end, the bill passed, 217-210, on a near-party-line basis. One Republican, Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, joined all Democrats in support.

The Senate has not yet taken any formal actions on the bill.

Under current rules, legislation needs the backing of 60 senators to proceed to a vote in the Senate. This means that Democrats would need to secure the support of 10 Republicans to move to final consideration. In today's highly polarized political environment, that will not be easy.

We'll watch to see what happens. Because the bill passed the House, we move this promise to In the Works.

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