Presidential candidate Kamala Harris unveiled her plan to close the gender pay gap by fining companies that pay women employees less than men for equal work. The U.S. senator announced the proposal during a campaign stop in California on May 19, noting that white women working full-time make 80 cents for every dollar a white man is paid, while women of color earn even less.
“In America today, women for the same work – for the equal work, on average, make 80 cents on the dollar,” said Harris, reports CBS News. “Black women make 61 cents on the dollar. Latinas make 53 cents on the dollar and this has got to end.”
Under Harris’ proposal, corporations with over 100 employees would have to obtain an “Equal Pay Certification” from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within a certain timeframe. Companies would also be required to prove existing pay gaps are not based on gender, but merit, performance, or seniority. Companies that don’t meet the standard to become certified would be fined 1% of their daily profits for every 1% of the wage gap allowed to persist.
“Companies that fail to receive this certification will face a fine for every day they discriminate against their workers,” explained a senior campaign official in an email to BLACK ENTERPRISE. “Harris’ plan will force corporations to be accountable and transparent.”
Over the next decade, Harris’ campaign projects that the fines would generate $180 billion, which would then be used to help fund paid family and medical leave. The proposal aims to eliminate pay disparities between men and women on corporations by placing the responsibility on companies rather than on employees, who, under current law, must file lawsuits if and when they find they’re not being compensated fairly. According to Politico, Harris’ plan also mandates companies to report the percentage of women in leadership positions and how many are among the highest paid employees at the company.
The Harris campaign added that if Congress fails to pass the proposal, she would use executive power to force companies that apply for federal contracts to comply.
Earlier this month, Harris introduced legislation to help students from underrepresented communities gain access to educational materials, mentorships, and work experience related to the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Under the 21st Century STEM for Girls and Underrepresented Minorities Act, $40 million would be authorized to fund a competitive grant program for school districts to improve participation in STEM education among girls, students of color, LGBTQ students, disabled students, and kids from low-income neighborhoods.