In a Win for Employees, Federal Judge Reinstates Obama-Era Fair Pay Regulations

On March 4, 2019, a federal district court overturned President Trump’s efforts to curtail regulations designed to combat employment discrimination and pay disparity. U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan of the District of Columbia reinstated President Obama’s executive order requiring large companies to submit data to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regarding their employees’ gender, race, ethnicity, and salary.

This ruling is a huge win for equality proponents everywhere.


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Here’s a little history on the fight for equal pay.

Obama orders pay data to be submitted to the EEOC on the anniversary of signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law

On January 29, 2016, the Obama administration issued an executive order that recharged the fight for equal pay in the United States, which still has women being paid only 80 cents on the dollar compared to men—a gap that is much larger for women of color. President Obama’s executive order requires companies with more than 100 employees to submit data to the EEOC on a company’s breakdown of employees’ gender, race, ethnicity— and their pay rates and hours worked.

The order was issued on the seventh anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, which was the first act President Obama signed into law. It was the result of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that dismissed Lilly Ledbetter’s claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that she was paid only a fraction of her male colleagues’ salaries. Despite only learning of the pay disparity six months before her retirement, because the decision to pay her less was made more than 180 days before she filed her claim, the Supreme Court found that she missed her deadline.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act changed the law to re-start the 180-day deadline with each unequal paycheck. President Obama’s order was intended to provide valuable enforcement and research data to finally close the pay gap.

Women’s rights activists sue the Trump administration’s reversal of Obama’s executive order

Companies subject to President Obama’s order would have started submitting the data beginning March 31, 2018, but the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), on President Trump’s orders, halted the rule in August 2017 as to the collection of pay rates and hours worked.

The Trump administration claimed that providing this information would be unnecessarily burdensome for companies and potentially cause issues concerning privacy and confidentiality. Three months later, a lawsuit challenging this action was filed by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), a 46-year-old nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that advocates for women’s rights, and the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), a national nonprofit that aims to assist Latino/a workers in their workplace advancement. Closing the pay gap has been a long-standing goal of both the NWLC as well as the LCLAA.

Judge Rules Requirement Doesn’t ‘Meaningfully Increase’ Employers’ Burden

On March 4, Judge Chutkan ruled that the OMB could not provide sufficient proof that providing such data would “meaningfully increase the burden on employers,” and therefore that the Trump administration’s stay of the EEOC’s pay data collection was illegal.

So, what does this ruling mean?

The EEOC has not yet issued a reporting deadline in the wake of Judge Chutkan’s ruling, but unless the Trump administration files an appeal, soon companies with more than 100 employees will be required to send pay rates and hours worked along with statistics regarding gender, race, and ethnicity to the EEOC.

While companies will not have to release information about specific individuals, it will be easy to see how people in the same job categories are being paid compared to individuals with different genders, races, and ethnicities. Accessing and studying this information will be an important step in recognizing and fighting pay-based inequality. Having access to this data will pave the way for more scholarly research on the wage gap and its many intersections between ethnicity, race, and gender.

If you suspect that you are being unfairly compensated, or feel that you have been unjustly terminated from your job, the lawyers of Jackson Spencer Law have decades of experience advocating for employees with such claims against their employers. To arrange a consultation with one of our attorneys, call us at (800) 596 – 5074 or fill out our contact form.