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Obama orders gender pay gap study

May. 10, 2013 - 06:00AM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
The White House on Friday ordered agencies to start studying ways to narrow the pay gap between men and women in the federal government. (JEWEL SAMAD/Jewel Samad / AFP)

The White House on Friday ordered agencies to start studying ways to narrow the pay gap between men and women in the federal government.

In a governmentwide memo, President Obama gave acting Office of Personnel Management Director Elaine Kaplan 180 days to study whether changes to the General Schedule classification system would narrow the pay gap, propose guidance to agencies on how to be more transparent on starting salaries, and recommend additional administrative or legislative changes that would narrow the pay gap.

Agency heads also have 90 days to provide OPM their policies and practices on evaluating employees for promotion — especially those who work part-time because they provide care to children or other family members. Obama also wants agencies to provide information on their policies and practices that may affect people who are returning to the workplace after taking extended time off to serve as caregivers, as well as anything else that may affect gender pay equality.

According to the Government Accountability Office, in 2007 female federal employees were paid 89 cents for every dollar that male federal employees earned. That pay gap in the federal government has narrowed since 1988, when women earned 72 cents for every dollar men earned.

GAO said that all but 7 cents of the 11-cent gap could be explained by factors such as occupation, experience and level of education. No more recent data on the pay gap is available.

The federal government’s pay gap is far narrower than the private sector’s gap. Women in the private sector earn 77 cents for every dollar men earn.

In his memo, Obama said the nationwide pay gap is unacceptable, since two-thirds of women are the sole or partial breadwinner of their household.

“Unjust pay disparities are a detriment to women, families and our economy,” Obama said.

Former OPM Director John Berry and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Chairwoman Jacqueline Berrien in 2011 issued a memo pledging to work to reduce the gender pay gap. In the memo, Berry and Berrien urged federal employees who believe they have a compensation discrimination claim to contact an EEO counselor within 45 days of the action they believe is discriminatory.

“We cannot achieve our national commitment to equal employment opportunity until women are included as equal partners in every workplace, including the federal government,” Berrien said. “The federal government should be a model employer in every regard — including equal pay.”

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