May 20, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Kamala Harris vs. the gender pay gap

Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris. Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Kamala Harris wants to use the power of the presidency to close the gender pay gap.

Driving the news: Her new proposal: Use executive action to ensure federal contractors act first, then get Congress to fine big companies 1% of profits for every 1% of pay gap.

  • Past federal legislation put the burden on employees to sue or report their employers if gender-based pay discrimination was suspected.

The big picture: While other 2020 Democrats have talked about unequal pay or more transparency from companies, Harris' proposal is the most concrete.

Details: Legislative action would be required to impose her policy on private corporations.

  • Companies with 100+ employees would have to obtain an “equal pay certification” every two years from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
  • Companies would have to prove pay gaps for similar jobs are based on something other than gender.
  • This policy could generate $180 billion in 10 years, Harris' campaign estimates.
  • That revenue would be spent on paid family and medical leave programs.

What they're saying: “Closing the wage gap would mean tens of millions for women and their families," Vicki Shabo, a senior fellow at nonpartisan think tank New America, told HuffPost.

  • "It could wipe out student loan debt, give relief to homeowners, and literally put food on the table. It’s something that can help stimulate the economy.”
  • Yes, but: "Penalties tend to slow compliance and undermine the goals that they seek to achieve," said Joseph Vaughan, executive director of Corporate Diversity and Inclusion Forum, a trade group. "I'm always concerned when people introduce policies with punitive fines and penalties that it will never be enacted into law."

The bottom line: If things continue as is, women won't get equal pay until 2059.

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