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Proposed DOL Tool to Gather Info on Contractor Pay Disparities

By Kathy Gurchiek  8/15/2011

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) is seeking public comment on a tool that it is considering developing that would improve the ability of one of its agencies to gather data that might indicate pay discrimination, such as wage disparities of female and minority workers.

The proposed tool would be used by the DOL’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).

“Today, almost 50 years after the Equal Pay Act became law, the wage gap has narrowed, but not nearly enough,” DOL Secretary Hilda L. Solis said in a news release announcing the data tool.

In 2010, women were paid an average of 77 cents for every dollar paid to men, according to the DOL’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, which says the wage gap is wider for men and women of color.

There might be nondiscriminatory factors that explain some of these differences, the OFCCP notes in the Federal Register announcement. However, it reports, even after controlling for differences in skills, job characteristics, job segregation, experience and education, “literature still finds that an unexplained [earnings] gap exists” between men and women.

A notice of the DOL’s proposed rulemaking was published in the Aug. 10, 2011, issue of the Federal Register, seeking public comment.

The notice poses 15 questions for public response on the types of data that should be requested, the scope of information OFCCP should seek and how it should be collected, how the data should be used, what form the tool should take, which contractors should be required to submit compensation data, and how the tool might create potential burdens for small businesses.

In addition to providing OFCCP investigators with data into potential pay discrimination that could warrant further review, the proposed tool would provide employers with a self-assessment element to help them evaluate the effects of their compensation practices, according to the DOL.

Oct. 11, 2011, is the deadline for submitting comment.

OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu, a member of the president’s National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force, called the proposal a way “to focus our enforcement resources where they are most needed. We can’t truly solve this problem until we can see it, measure it and put dollar figures on it,” she said.

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