By R. Joseph Stennis
In support of National Equal Pay Day, President Obama signed an executive order on April 8, 2014, that prohibits federal contractors from retaliating against workers who discuss their compensation with each other and/or in the workplace. According to White House officials, this executive order will not compel workers to discuss pay and/or require employers to publish employee compensation. Instead, it will serve as a “critical tool” to encourage pay transparency, so that workers have an additional mechanism in place for discovering violations of equal pay laws and are able to seek appropriate remedies. Whether retaliation against employees who discuss their pay on social media outlets such as Twitter or Facebook would also fall under the President’s order is uncertain, but more than likely would be protected under the contemplated executive order.
Additionally, President Obama will direct the Labor Department this week to create and issue regulations that will require federal contractors to submit to the Deparment data regarding their employees’ compensation. This data must include details regarding employee gender and race. The Labor Department will utilize the data to conduct more targeted enforcement against federal contractors with the expectation that companies will comply voluntarily with equal-pay laws – the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. It remains unclear at this point what such “targeted enforcement” will entail. However, it may result in more enforcement activity by the Department if it concludes a company is not being compliant.