Labor

I will continue to fight for equality in the United States, whether it is at the ballot box, in a paycheck or in the way our government assigns contracts. I feel a moral obligation to work as hard as I possibly can to ensure that a nation that so richly values its opportunities continues to allow all its citizens to avail themselves of those opportunities.

Lilly Ledbetter

As 2009 began, I was proud to vote for H.R. 11, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is named for a woman who was a clear victim of sex-based pay discrimination but was denied any remedy in the 2007 Supreme Court Ledbetter decision.  Lilly Ledbetter worked for nearly two decades at a Goodyear Tire and Rubber facility in Alabama.  She sued the company after learning that she was the lowest-paid supervisor at the plant, despite having more experience than several of her male counterparts.  A jury found that her employer had unlawfully discriminated against her on the basis of sex.  However, the Supreme Court said that Ledbetter had waited too long to sue for pay discrimination, despite the fact that she filed a Title VII charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as soon as she received an anonymous note alerting her to pay discrimination.

Before the Supreme Court’s ruling, the law was clear:  Every discriminatory paycheck was a new violation of the law that restarted the clock for filing a claim. Employers and employees had lived with and accepted this rule for decades.   

The Ledbetter decision ignores the realities of the workplace – where employees generally have no way of knowing when an employer’s initial decision to pay them less occurs.  Generally, employees do not know enough about what their co-workers earn, or how pay decisions are made, to file a complaint precisely when discrimination first occurs.  Indeed, in a large proportion of American companies, salaries are confidential.  The court’s decision makes it extraordinarily difficult for women and other victims of pay discrimination to sue under Title VII.

The Ledbetter decision allowed employers to escape responsibility by keeping their discrimination hidden and running out the clock.  Under the Supreme Court decision, employers had an incentive to keep discriminatory pay decisions hidden for 180 days and then never correct them.  The bill we passed will stop those actions, and hopefully will stop employees from being discriminated against in their paychecks.

Paycheck Fairness
Along with the Ledbetter Act, Congress passed H.R. 12, the Paycheck Fairness Act of 2009. This bill strengthened the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and closes loopholes that allowing employers to avoid responsibility for discriminatory pay. 

I was pleased to vote for paycheck fairness as well because it will give women access to remedies available under other claims of discrimination.  While victims of other forms of wage discrimination, like race or national origin, can recoup more comprehensive damages, a plaintiff who successfully proves wage discrimination under the Equal Pay Act could only recover back pay and sometimes some damages.  The Paycheck Fairness Act puts gender-based discrimination sanctions on equal footing with other forms of wage discrimination by allowing women to sue for compensatory and punitive damages.

It also ensures that courts do not accept poor excuses for unequal pay by employers.  Courts have allowed employers to use any factor other than sex to justify a pay disparity between men and women, even if the factor has nothing to do with the job.  Under the bill, an employer would have to show that the disparity is not sex-based, is job-related, and is consistent with business necessity. 

Finally, the bill protects employees who discuss salary information from any retaliation by their employer.  Often, discriminatory pay is hidden because many employers prohibit employees from discussing their pay with each other. H.R. 12 prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who discuss or disclose salary information with their co-workers, the primary way by which pay discrimination is uncovered.

Unequal pay harms families and the economy.  For families who are just making ends meet, equal pay for women will make a significant difference to their well-being and help lift their families out of poverty.  Single women who are head of households are twice as likely to be in poverty as single men.  Additionally, closing the wage gap would have a long-term impact on women’s economic security, especially in retirement, as unequal pay affects Social Security and pension benefit calculations.

I will continue to fight for equality in the United States, whether it is at the ballot box, in a paycheck or in the way our government assigns contracts. I feel a moral obligation to work as hard as I possibly can to ensure that a nation that so richly values its opportunities continues to allow all its citizens to avail themselves of those opportunities.

More on Labor

September 4, 2017 Press Release

Washington, D.C. (September 4, 2017) — Today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) issued the following statement in recognition of Labor Day: 

“Labor Day gives Americans an opportunity to express gratitude for the workers who wake up every day to provide vital services to our communities.  Today is also a day for us to honor the rich history and contributions of the U.S. labor movement, which secured many rights for American workers, including overtime pay and the 40-hour work week.  
 

September 2, 2016 Press Release

Washington, D.C. (September 2, 2016)— Today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) issued the following statement in recognition of Labor Day: 

“The hard-working men and women that make up our workforce are America’s greatest resource.  Today, we celebrate them and the labor movement, which has fought tirelessly to protect the rights of American workers.

February 24, 2016 Press Release

Washington, D.C. (Feb. 23, 2015) – Today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) joined Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA), and 31 Members of Congress to introduce legislation in the House to provide a 3.9% raise to federal workers plus 1.4% in lost locality pay. The Federal Adjustment of Income Rates Act (FAIR Act) would provide the pay hike to all federal employees, including locality pay, in 2017.
 

December 21, 2015 Press Release
Washington, D.C. (December 21, 2015) — Today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) sent a letter to Maryland Governor Larry Hogan to urge the Governor to “leave no stone unturned” in his Administration’s review of the barriers formerly-incarcerated Maryland residents face when trying to reenter society
October 27, 2015 Press Release
Washington, D.C. (October 27, 2015) — Today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) spoke on the House floor in opposition to H.R. 1090, the Retail Investor Protection Act. The bill would prevent the Department of Labor (DOL) from finalizing the fiduciary rule needed to ensure that investment advisors and brokers place the financial interest of their clients ahead of their own.
September 29, 2015 Press Release
Washington, D.C. (September 29, 2015) – Today, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) joined Congressman Don Beyer (D-VA) to introduce H.R. 3635, the Federal Employee Retroactive Pay Fairness Act, which would secure retroactive pay for all federal employees during a federal government shutdown, regardless of furlough status. Congressman Rob Wittman (R-VA) is the lead Republican cosponsor.
September 10, 2015 Press Release
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, Members of Congress led by U.S. Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ron Johnson (R-WI) in the Senate and Reps. Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) and Darrell Issa (R-CA), in the House of Representatives, introduced the Fair Chance Act, bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would give formerly incarcerated people a fairer chance at securing employment by prohibiting federal contractors and federal agencies from asking about the criminal history of a job applicant until an applicant receives a conditional offer of employment.
July 28, 2015 Press Release
Washington, DC (July 28, 2015) – Today, top Democrats in the House introduced three bills that would make it illegal for public and private sector employers to discriminate, sexually harass and retaliate against interns.
April 9, 2014 Video
Cummings speaks on the House floor in opposition to the GOP budget proposal.
March 21, 2014 Video
Rep. Cummings sits down with Comcast Newsmakers to discuss the economy and his upcoming 7th District Job Fair