Obama Wants Federal Contractors to Pay Men and Women Equally

Carolyn Kaster/AP

This story has been updated. 

President Obama on Tuesday will issue two executive orders aimed at the federal contractor workforce as part of an effort to eliminate gender-based pay disparities.

The first executive order will protect a federal contractor’s right to discuss their pay openly with coworkers. The order will prohibit an employer contracted by the federal government from retaliating against employees who disclose their pay.

A White House official told Reuters that pay secrecy can lead to women not even knowing they are underpaid compared to their male colleagues. In turn, the women “cannot take steps to remedy the pay gap.”

The second order will enable the government to better track pay information based on race and gender. Obama will direct Labor Secretary Thomas Perez to create regulations that require federal contractors to collect and submit this information, which the agency could then use to enforce existing laws.

Obama will sign the orders ahead of the Senate’s consideration of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would apply the provisions of the executive orders to the entire American workforce, in addition to other measures to help employees facing paycheck discrimination. This mirrors a strategy the White House pursued earlier this year, when it boosted by executive order the minimum wage for federal contractors to $10.10, while calling on Congress to do the same for all workers.

Women currently earn about 81 cents on the dollar compared to men, according to the Labor Department. Obama will sign the orders on National Equal Pay Day, celebrated annually to show how far in the current year a woman must work to earn what a man earned in the previous year.  

Not all parties are convinced the executive orders are a good idea. Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council, called the unique focus on federal contractors arbitrary.

“Government contractors are employers like all other employers and to the extent possible you’d like to see people treated the same,” Soloway said, adding there has been no communication between the White House and the contractor community. He said he will await seeing the specifics of the orders before issuing further judgment.

Sabrina Schaeffer, executive director of the Independent Women’s Forum -- a conservative women’s group -- told reporters on Monday figures such as the Labor Department’s 88 cents on the dollar for women do not take into consideration other factors such as experience and education.

“Perpetuating the myth that women are a victim class harms women by making them feel weak, and it distracts them from learning smart ways to increase their earnings, expand their influence in the workplace and pursue the lives they want,” Schaeffer said. 

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Forecasting Cloud's Future

    Conversations with Federal, State, and Local Technology Leaders on Cloud-Driven Digital Transformation

  • The Big Data Campaign Trail

    With everyone so focused on security following recent breaches at federal, state and local government and education institutions, there has been little emphasis on the need for better operations. This report breaks down some of the biggest operational challenges in IT management and provides insight into how agencies and leaders can successfully solve some of the biggest lingering government IT issues.

  • Communicating Innovation in Federal Government

    Federal Government spending on ‘obsolete technology’ continues to increase. Supporting the twin pillars of improved digital service delivery for citizens on the one hand, and the increasingly optimized and flexible working practices for federal employees on the other, are neither easy nor inexpensive tasks. This whitepaper explores how federal agencies can leverage the value of existing agency technology assets while offering IT leaders the ability to implement the kind of employee productivity, citizen service improvements and security demanded by federal oversight.

  • IT Transformation Trends: Flash Storage as a Strategic IT Asset

    MIT Technology Review: Flash Storage As a Strategic IT Asset For the first time in decades, IT leaders now consider all-flash storage as a strategic IT asset. IT has become a new operating model that enables self-service with high performance, density and resiliency. It also offers the self-service agility of the public cloud combined with the security, performance, and cost-effectiveness of a private cloud. Download this MIT Technology Review paper to learn more about how all-flash storage is transforming the data center.

  • Ongoing Efforts in Veterans Health Care Modernization

    This report discusses the current state of veterans health care


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.