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Public invited to comment during early stage of development
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is considering the development of a new data tool to collect information on salaries, wages and other benefits paid to employees of federal contractors and subcontractors.
The tool would improve OFCCP's ability to gather data that could be analyzed for indicators of discrimination, such as disparities faced by female and minority workers. To provide an opportunity for the public to submit feedback, the department published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking in the Aug. 10 edition of the Federal Register.
OFCCP enforces Executive Order 11246, which prohibits companies that do business with the federal government from discriminating in employment practices — including compensation — on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin or religion. Last year, the agency announced plans to create a compensation data tool in the department's fall 2010 regulatory agenda. In addition to providing OFCCP investigators with insight into potential pay discrimination warranting further review, the proposed tool would provide a self-assessment element to help employers evaluate the effects of their compensation practices.
"Today, almost 50 years after the Equal Pay Act became law, the wage gap has narrowed, but not nearly enough," said Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis. "The president and I are committed to ending pay discrimination once and for all."
The Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that in 2010 women were paid an average of 77 cents for every dollar paid to men. In addition to the gender gap, research has shown that race- and ethnicity-based pay gaps put workers of color, including men, at a disadvantage. Eliminating compensation-based discrimination is a top priority for OFCCP.
"Pay discrimination continues to plague women and people of color in the workforce," said OFCCP Director Patricia A. Shiu, a member of the president's National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force. "This proposal is about gathering better data, which will allow us to focus our enforcement resources where they are most needed. We can't truly solve this problem until we can see it, measure it and put dollar figures on it."
The notice poses 15 questions for public response on the types of data that should be requested, the scope of information OFCCP should seek, how the data should be collected, how the data should be used, what the tool should look like, which contractors should be required to submit compensation data and how the tool might create potential burdens for small businesses. The proposal will be open to public response for 60 days, and the deadline for receiving comments is Oct. 11. To read the proposal or submit a comment, visit the federal e-rulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov.
In addition to Executive Order 11246, OFCCP's legal authority exists under Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974. As amended, these three laws hold those who do business with the federal government, both contractors and subcontractors, to the fair and reasonable standard that they not discriminate in employment on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, national origin, disability or status as a protected veteran. For general information, call OFCCP's toll-free helpline at 800-397-6251. Additional information is also available at http://www.dol.gov/ofccp/.
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Growth in women's share of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) occupations declined to 27% in 2011from a high of 34% in 1990. While women make up nearly half of the workforce, they were 26% of the STEM workforce in 2011.
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