US Labor Department pay equity and workplace flexibility initiatives announced as part of White House Middle Class Task Force forum


Initiatives enhance work/life balance data and wage discrimination enforcement

WASHINGTON — A House Middle Class Task Force forum hosted by Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis July 20th, where several department initiatives designed to end wage discrimination while improving pay equity and work/life balance were announced. Among the attendees were U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Senior Adviser to the President Valerie Jarrett and Lily Ledbetter.

“Pay equity is a core family issue,” said Secretary Solis. “More money in a woman’s paycheck means a working family not having to choose between paying the mortgage, buying groceries, or buying necessary school supplies.”

Task force Chair Joe Biden noted that “Women make up nearly half of all workers on U.S. payrolls, and two-thirds of families with children are headed either by two working parents or by a single parent who works. Yet, the workplace has, for the most part, not changed to reflect these realities — and it must. Closing the gender pay gap, helping parents keep their jobs while balancing family responsibilities, and increasing workplace flexibility — these are not only women’s issues, they are issues of middle-class economic security.”

To implement Pres. Obama’s pledge in his State of the Union address, the administration created the National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force, bringing together the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Dept. of Justice (DOJ), the Dept. of Labor (DOL), and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

The National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force identified five persistent challenges in the area of equal pay enforcement, then made recommendations to address each challenge and developed an action plan to implement those recommendations:

  • Improve interagency coordination and enforcement efforts to maximize effectiveness of existing authorities
  • Collect data on the private workforce to better understand the scope of the pay gap and target enforcement efforts
  • Undertake a public education campaign to educate employers on their obligations and employees on their rights
  • Implement a strategy to improve the federal government’s role as a model employer
  • Work with Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The White House Council on Women and Girls also announced the White House’s launch of a Work-Flex Event Starter Kit to encourage more dialogue around workplace flexibility at the community level.

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 addition to closing the gender pay gap, we must also increase workplace flexibility,” added Secretary Solis. “America’s families have evolved, so helping parents and other caregivers keep their jobs while balancing their responsibilities in the home is key to our long-term economic success.”

To address issues related to work/life balance, the Labor Department’s Wage and Hour Division will conduct a new Family and Medical Leave Act survey in 2011 to provide insight into how families use leave. The survey will provide a baseline data collection of current family workplace policies and practices, as well as information on regulatory changes. In addition, the Women’s Bureau intends to sponsor a supplement to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ American Time Use Survey in 2011. The supplement will gather more information on parental leave, child care, family leave insurance program usage, and other issues related to the intersection of work and family responsibilities. The Women’s Bureau will also build on the White House’s Flexibility Forum by hosting a series of “National Dialogue on Workplace Flexibility” forums across the country.

For more information on the Middle Class Task Force, visit http://www.whitehouse.gov/strongmiddleclass/

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