Last week, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a series of amendments, dubbed the “Paycheck Fairness Act”, that will change the Equal Pay Act. This legislation mirrors efforts in many states, including Illinois, to attack the persistent national gender pay gap.

According to the International Monetary Fund, women make, on average, 82 percent of what men make – a disparity that would require women to work an extra 47 days to earn as much as men do.

The proposed changes to the Equal Pay Act would strengthen the current federal law that outlaws paying men and women differently for the same work, in several key ways:

First, in a situation where an employer attempts to defend an existing pay gap by asserting that it is based on “factors other than sex,” the employer would need to prove 3 things: (1) that the pay disparity is not based on, or derived, from an existing gender-based pay gap; (2) that the pay gap is related to the job in question; and (3) the pay gap is consistent with business necessity.

Second, it would prohibit employers from punishing workers who discuss pay, and also block employers from asking applicants’ past salaries, mirroring recent legislative efforts in Illinois. As previously reported here, the Illinois House recently passed HB 834 that similarly would ban salary history inquiries; the Illinois Senate will now consider the measure.

Third, it would require the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to start collecting pay data from employers to facilitate the identification of discriminatory pay practices. This would effectively override an Obama-era rule, frozen by the Trump Administration, that revised the annual EEO-1 report include similar data. As we recently reported here, a federal court has lifted the freeze on the new EEO-1 rule, but the judge’s ruling could be appealed by the Administration and the EEOC has not complied with the ruling. The proposed EPA amendments, if enacted, would codify the rule.

Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, it would provide grants to cover salary negotiation training for women. Studies show that men are four times more likely than women to negotiate for higher salaries, contributing to the gender gap.

This action adds to a host of work-related measure advances by House Democrats since January, including a proposed ban on non-disclosure agreements barring workers from talking about sex harassment, and a measure to expand anti-discrimination protections to gay and transgender workers.

This article is part of a series that highlights legal changes Illinois employers must know now. We’ll keep you updated on newly introduced laws as they’re debated and enacted. You can follow our blog or connect with us on LinkedIN to receive future posts in your news stream.

Gary Savine is founder of Savine Employment Law Ltd, and regularly litigates gender discrimination and wage cases on behalf of both workers and employers. Gary also performs employment compliance audits and investigations for employers.