The Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA) would offer several additional protections for women in the workplace, including increased ability to pursue punitive damages for unequal pay claims; prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who inquire about payment practices or who disclose their own salaries; and require businesses to prove that differences in pay between genders were rooted in business requirements.
Second, even with the outcome looking certain, the bill provides Democrats with the opportunity to further push the narrative of what they call the Republicans' "war on women."
"The gender gap is not only about how we vote, but how we are treated. And how we are treated in the workplace is when we try to find out about our pay, we often face harassment, humiliation, or retaliation," said Mikulski on a call with reporters. "American women are mad as hell, and they are ready to fight."
The president, on the other hand, described the issue in economic terms.
"And we've got to understand this is more than just about fairness," Mr. Obama said Monday. "Women are the breadwinners for a lot of families, and if they're making less than men do for the same work, families are going to have to get by for less money for child care and tuition and rent, small businesses have fewer customers. Everybody suffers."
But conservatives say it's not that simple. They argue the legislation is little more than a give-away for "litigators and aggrieved women's groups," as Christina Hoff Sommers, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, wrote in a recent op-ed. She argues that the statistic most frequently marshaled by the bill's backers – that women earn only $0.77 for every dollar paid to men – "is mostly, and perhaps entirely, an artifact of the different choices men and women make – different fields of study, different professions, different balances between home and work."