Bloomberg News

Obama to Sign Actions Aimed at Boosting Contractor Pay Fairness

April 06, 2014

U.S. President Barack Obama

U.S. President Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats have seized on equal pay as an issue ahead of November’s state and congressional elections, seeking to give a boost to low-income workers whose pay has stagnated following the recession. Photographer: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

President Barack Obama will move this week to increase the transparency of U.S. federal contractors pay practices regarding men’s and women’s earnings, according to a White House official.

Taken in coordination with the planned consideration of legislation in the Democrat-led Senate aimed at eliminating pay disparities between men and women, the two executive actions mark the latest push by the White House to emphasize “equal pay” proposals.

Obama and his fellow Democrats have seized on equal pay as an issue ahead of November’s state and congressional elections, seeking to give a boost to low-income workers whose pay has stagnated following the recession. Obama is using executive orders as legislation in Congress, such as a bill to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour from $7.25, stalls.

Obama will sign an executive order to do away with ‘gag rules’’ that prevent individuals working on contract for the government from discussing pay with one another, according to the White House official. It would prohibit federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their compensation.

In a second action, Obama will instruct the Labor Department to draft rules requiring contractors to provide pay data by sex and race -- a proposal akin to the Senate measure scheduled for consideration this week.

Obama will use his actions to call on Congress to pass the bill, which is known as the “Paycheck Fairness Act,” according to the official.

Minimum Wage

In February, Obama signed an order boost pay for lower-income federal contractors to $10.10. Though smaller in scale than the broader minimum-wage legislation he is seeking, White House officials said the actions show the president is willing to move on the issue, with or without Republican support.

“By exercising this well-established authority, your administration would be leading the way for expanded protections for all workers when passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act can be secured,” a coalition of groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and AFL-CIO, said in an April 4 letter to Obama.

While the executive order prohibiting federal contractors from retaliating against employees for discussing pay wouldn’t require workers to discuss their pay, it may provide a tool for workers and groups looking to address pay transparency, the official said.

The Labor Department rules would open up a stream of data on compensation and race and sex to encourage voluntary compliance with equal pay laws and targeted enforcement when employers fail to comply, the official said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Phil Mattingly in Washington at pmattingly@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net Romaine Bostick, Fred Strasser


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