Trumped Again: Equal Pay Data Rule Stalled

Emily Kowalik ’18

The #MeToo and Time's Up movements have spurred momentum in efforts to have industries disclose details about workforce diversity – data that shows the progress (or lack thereof) for women and minorities in the workplace.

Feminist author Gloria Feldt said in Time that many employers were being forced to make changes in response to #MeToo, like examining gender-based pay differences.

However, the current Trump administration is sabotaging our efforts towards workplace equality.

President Trump has engaged in a blitz attack on regulations, axing rules that were intended to ensure safe workplaces and fair pay; 67 deregulatory actions were made during fiscal year 2017, and a total of 1,579 regulations withdrawn or delayed.

Pay equity is one area where we are in danger of losing our momentum, and it’s time to resist.

Since the 1960s, American companies with more than 100 employees have had to complete an annual census, the EEO-1, a federal form that tallies employees by race and gender across all job categories.

Though not required to make company data public, many companies have released detailed summaries in response to shareholder activists, who have pushed for public disclosure of EEO-1 information.

For example, JPMorgan said women accounted for 24.7 percent of its top ranks in 2016, versus 25.8 percent in 2015. The information guides investors, who believe that a diverse workforce yields better business outcomes, evaluating companies on social criteria.

The Obama administration asked that salary data also be reported, via the EEO-1 pay data collection rule. This pay equity form was intended to identify pay disparities in America’s workplaces and thereby help remedy gender, racial and ethnic pay inequities.

Former EEOC Chair Jenny R. Yang said the collecting of this data “is a significant step forward in addressing discriminatory pay practices. This information will assist employers in evaluating their pay practices to prevent pay discrimination and strengthen enforcement of our federal anti-discrimination laws.”  

Many HR specialists had already changed their data collection practices in anticipation of this new rule.

But the Trump administration put the EEO-1 pay data collection rule on hold, making it harder to identify pay disparities and root out employment discrimination. Further, this decision (to save corporations “needless” paperwork, most of which were already done) ignores what the research shows – inequities have gotten worse, not better.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, among workers with the same level of education and work experience, black–white wage gaps are larger today than nearly 40 years ago, and gender pay disparities have remained essentially unchanged for at least 15 years.  

In both cases, discrimination has been shown to be a major factor in the persistence of those gaps.

As the Economic Policy Institute notes, the Trump administration is making it harder for the public, employers and federal agencies to identify pay disparities and root out employment discrimination.

Halting the equal pay data rule will make it more difficult for working people to know when they are being discriminated against. The Trump administration and congressional Republicans have spent an enormous amount of time painting regulations as a “problem.”

It is time to end this deception and return to defending the rules that protect us and promote pay equity.