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Heller’s Shameful Voting Record Against Equal Pay for Equal Work

Today, April 10, marks Equal Pay Day – the milestone for how far into 2018 women need to work in order to earn the same amount men were paid in 2017. It also serves as a reminder of Sen. Dean Heller’s disgraceful voting record on closing the pay gap. Despite women in Nevada earning an average of 81 cents per every dollar a white man makes, Sen. Heller has voted repeatedly against bills to help end gender pay discrimination.

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, if the gender wage gap was eliminated, working women in the U.S. would be able to afford:

  • 14 more months of child care
  • 74 more weeks of food for her family
  • Nearly seven more months of mortgage and utilities payments
  • More than 10 additional months of rent
  • Nearly nine additional years of birth control

Nevada Democratic State Party spokesperson Sarah Abel released the following statement:

“As Nevada women finally catch up to how much their male co-workers earned last year, Equal Pay Day is a reminder that Nevadans deserve better than Dean Heller. Instead of supporting commonsense solutions to give women the tools to combat pay discrimination, Heller has voted time and time again to undermine women in the workplace.”

BACKGROUND

2007: Heller Voted Against The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Of 2007. In 2007, Heller voted against a bill to protect the victims of wage discrimination. The bill amended the 1964 Civil Rights Act to allow employees to file charges of pay discrimination within 180 days of the last received paycheck affected by the alleged discriminatory decision. It also clarified that an employee is entitled to up to two years of back-pay if it is determined that discrimination occurred. The legislation was introduced in response to a May 29, 2007 Supreme Court ruling, Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., a 5-4 ruling decried by civil rights activists. According to the ruling, workers filing suit for wage discrimination must do so within 180 days of the actual decision to discriminate against them. That blocked efforts to win redress for discrimination that unfolded in small steps over a period of years. The bill passed 225-199.  [CQ Floor Votes; HR 2831, Vote 768, 7/31/07]

2008: Heller Voted Against The Paycheck Fairness Act. In 2008, Heller voted against HR 1338, a bill that would lift the cap on compensatory and punitive damages that women may be awarded in wage discrimination cases. The bill would also require employers who contended that pay discrepancies did not result from discrimination to give an actual business reason for why female employees were paid less than their male counterparts.  Democrats argued that the bill would close some loopholes for pay discrimination. ’The current system is rife with loopholes that allowed employers to avoid responsibility for discriminatory pay scales,’ Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said. Republicans criticized the legislation, saying that it would be fodder for frivolous lawsuits. ’This bill will make it easier for trial lawyers to cash in, and taxpayers should be outraged that their money is being put to such use,’ Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) said. The bill passed 247-178.  [CQ Today¸7/31/08; HR 1338, Vote 556, 7/31/08]

2009: Heller Voted Against Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act To Prevent Wage Discrimination. In 2009, Heller voted against the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.  The Senate measure was nearly identical to some provisions in the House passed version HR 11. The final bill allowed employees to sue employers for wage discrimination within 180 days of their last paycheck affected by the alleged discrimination. The measure was designed to overturn a 2007 Supreme Court decision (Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.) that ruled a worker could not bring a wage discrimination suit more than 180 days after the initial discriminatory act.   The Senate version of the bill did not include a provision from HR 12 that would have required employers seeking to justify unequal pay for male and female workers to prove that such disparities are job-related and required by a business necessity. The bill passed 250-177.  [CQ House Action Reports Legislative Week, 1/26/09; S 181, Vote 37, 1/27/09]

2012: Heller Voted Nay During The Cloture Vote For The Paycheck Fairness Act, Defeating The Bill. On June 5th, 2012, Heller voted nay during the procedural vote that would have pushed the Paycheck Fairness Act to a formal vote.  “Paycheck Fairness Act – Amends the portion of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) known as the Equal Pay Act to revise remedies for, enforcement of, and exceptions to prohibitions against sex discrimination in the payment of wages. Revises the exception to the prohibition for a wage rate differential based on any other factor other than sex. Limits such factors to bona fide factors, such as education, training, or experience. States that the bona fide factor defense shall apply only if the employer demonstrates that such factor: (1) is not based upon or derived from a sex-based differential in compensation, (2) is job-related with respect to the position in question, and (3) is consistent with business necessity. Makes such defense inapplicable where the employee demonstrates that: (1) an alternative employment practice exists that would serve the same business purpose without producing such differential, and (2) the employer has refused to adopt such alternative practice. Revises the prohibition against employer retaliation for employee complaints. Prohibits retaliation for inquiring about, discussing, or disclosing the wages of the employee or another employee in response to a complaint or charge, or in furtherance of a sex discrimination investigation, proceeding, hearing, or action, or an investigation conducted by the employer. Makes employers who violate sex discrimination prohibitions liable in a civil action for either compensatory or (except for the federal government) punitive damages.” The bill did not yield the necessary votes to warrant a formal vote in the Senate. The bill failed 52-47. [CQ, 5/22/12; S 3220, Introduced, 5/22/12; Vote 115, 6/5/12; The Hill, 6/5/12]