Court Orders Government to Collect Data That May Shed Light on Pay Discrimination

by | March 11, 2019 | Employment Law

The devil is in the details. In this case, the details are pay data collected by the United States government in an attempt to quantify, if possible, gender or racial discrepancies in pay.

With this in mind, during the Obama administration, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) decided to improve the quality of the pay data it already collected pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 from companies with more than 100 employees and federal contractors with at least 50 employees. The improved data collection entailed collecting aggregate W-2 data in pay bands for various job categories. The improved data collection was scheduled to begin with the 2017 reporting cycle and with reports due by March 31, 2018. However, the effort to gather the critical information needed to help determine the range of wage disparity within the United States was stalled when Donald Trump was elected president. Under the Trump administration, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) halted the improved pay data collection process in August 2017 by claiming that the new collection process would add an unfair and costly burden on employers. In line with this reasoning, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimated that it would cost affected businesses $1.3 billion per year to comply with the new data collection requirements.

With the halt in the collection of the employment data, proponents for the data collection sued the OMB in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. (National Women’s Law Center, et al., v. Office of Management and Budget, et al., Civil Action No. 17-cv-2458 (TSC)). In March 2019, the Court returned a resounding victory on behalf of the proponents for data collection and a crushing defeat for the Trump administration. The Court ruled that the government failed to show that the data collection would “meaningfully increase the burden on employers.” The data will be collected.

What might the data show? Well, it might show numbers like those found in a 2016 Pew Research Center survey. According to this survey, Asian women earn an average of 87 cents for every dollar paid to white men; white women earn an average of 82 cents for every dollar paid to white men. For black women, the take-home pay is 65 cents for every dollar paid to white men; and for Hispanic women, the average is 58 cents for every dollar paid to white men. It is true that some wage discrepancy can be attributed to education level, previous experience in the labor force, occupation and industry. However, without better critical data, it becomes more difficult to identify nuanced causes of wage disparity and in turn help combat the scourge of pay discrimination.

With offices nationwide, including locations in NY and California, the employment attorneys at Sanford Heisler Sharp are available to help you with your pay discrimination lawsuit.