(by Ben Wolfgang, The Washington Times) -- President Obama’s unilateral move Tuesday to try to close the pay gap between the sexes will force federal contractors to tell the government what their employees earn, broken down by race and sex, giving the administration extraordinary new powers to pursue discrimination cases.
One legal analyst said the two orders Mr. Obama issued would drive up the costs of federal contracts, leaving taxpayers stuck with higher bills. Businesses feared the orders would lay ground for the government to take legal action against them.
“Equal treatment is an admirable goal, but smaller companies who already have difficulties competing with larger firms for federal contracts are now going to need to consider a new set of issues: reporting compliance, the ability to award merit pay or the possibility of wage data being used as grounds for discrimination lawsuits,” said Simon Brody, a spokesman for the National Association of Government Contractors, which represents firms doing business with the federal government.
Mr. Obama issued the orders in conjunction with Equal Pay Day, telling the Labor Department to write rules requiring businesses that take federal contracts to report their employees’ salaries — though he said he wanted the effect on small businesses to be minimized.
“America should be a level playing field, a fair race for everybody, a place where anybody who is willing to work hard has a chance to get ahead. And restoring that opportunity for every American, men and women, has to be a driving focus for our country,” Mr. Obama said during a speech in the East Room of the White House, where he was flanked by about a dozen women. “We don’t have second-class citizens in this country, certainly not in the workplace.”
Beyond requiring companies to open their books, the president barred federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their salaries openly.
The White House said the measure is designed to provide “a critical tool to encourage pay transparency, so workers have a potential way of discovering violations of equal pay laws and are able to seek appropriate remedies.”