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PRESS RELEASE
8-16-11

EEOC, OPM Pledge to Ensure "Rigorous Enforcement" of Equal Pay Laws for Federal Employees

Agencies Issue Joint Letter on Equal Pay in the Federal Government

WASHINGTON -- The U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) pledged to ensure "rigorous enforcement" of equal pay laws for federal employees, releasing a joint letter today. The letter will be sent to all civilian federal employees.

EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien released the letter at the EEOC's EXamining Conflicts in Employment Law (EXCEL) conference in Baltimore, the EEOC's premiere training event for federal sector equal employment. Chair Berrien said: "We cannot achieve our national commitment to equal employment opportunity until women are included as equal partners in every workplace, including the federal government. The federal government should be a model employer in every regard—including equal pay."

"Equal pay for equal work is the law, it's right, and its time has come.  OPM and the EEOC are working together to ensure that federal equal pay laws are vigorously enforced in the federal workplace," said OPM Director John Berry.  "Ensuring equal pay for equal work without regard to gender, or any other prohibited basis helps us recruit and retain the most talented workforce to serve the American people.  While this wage gap is smaller in the federal government than in other sectors, much work remains to be done to ensure that the federal government is a model employer."

Both agencies are members of the White House's National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force—which charged them with "providing a road map for federal agencies to increase compliance with federal compensation discrimination laws."  More information about the Task Force and its recommendations can be found on the White House's website. On the Task Force, the EEOC is also focusing on private sector enforcement.

According to a 2009 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the gender wage gap for federal employees declined from 28 cents on the dollar in 1987 to 11 cents in 2007. Of that 11 cents gap, seven cents could not be explained by differences in education, years of service, or other non-discriminatory factors.

While still significantly less than the current 33 cent wage gap in the private sector, and far less than the overall gap of 41 cents in 1963, the year the Equal Pay Act took effect, "clearly much work remains to be done in order to close the wage gap," the letter noted. Representatives from both agencies are working with the GAO to identify further causes of the wage gap and ways to combat it.

The letter points out that sex-based compensation discrimination is illegal under both the Equal Pay Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, both of which apply to federal sector as well as other public and private sector employers. In addition to gender, compensation discrimination is also prohibited on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, disability and genetic information or family medical history.

"We take our obligation to ensure that the federal government is a model employer very seriously, and are working to ensure that all federal employees have the opportunity to realize the promise of equal pay for equal work," the letter concluded.

The EEOC enforces the nation's laws against employment discrimination. More information is available on the EEOC's website: www.eeoc.gov. Additional information on the federal sector EEO process can be found at www.eeoc.gov/federal/.