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Federal pay equity legislation took another step toward becoming reality after the victories of two Democrats in the January 5 Senate runoff election in Georgia. Democrats will soon hold a slim edge in the Senate, and according to Bloomberg, this will open a new path for workplace-related bills, including those related to pay equity: “Some Democratic labor and employment bills could be rebooted in the new Congress with the expectation of better prospects in the Senate.”

Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris will be able to cast tie-breaking votes in the Senate once she’s sworn in. And Harris has a robust pay equity agenda of her own: in 2019, then-Senator Harris announced a bold plan to close the pay gap between genders.

Over the past few years, House-Democrat-backed workplace bills haven’t had much of a chance in the Senate. Now, with the Democrats now holding an edge in the Senate as well as the House, federal pay equity laws are more likely to be advanced through Congress, and signed by President-Elect Joe Biden.

Here are a few of the House-supported efforts to promote pay equity that have the potential to become federal law in the not-so-distant future:

  • Increase the talent pool by expanding access to educational opportunities with low-and-no cost options, as well as a more robust and sophisticated approach to student loan forgiveness;
  • Allow women more workplace flexibility through expanded access to high-quality, affordable health care, child care, and family leave;
  • Pass H.R. 7, The Paycheck Fairness Act, which explicitly requires non-gendered, Bona Fide Factors in the affirmative defense of unequal compensation, with strict guidelines validating those factors; and
  • A reinstatement of pay data reporting to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) (ended by the outgoing administration). 

This increased momentum surrounding federal pay equity legislation isn’t new at the state level, where pay equity legislation continues to pick up speed. Examples include California’s SB 973 and Colorado’s Equal Pay for Equal Work Act (EPEWA), both in effect as of January 1, 2021.

With state reporting requirements already covering employers, and the possibility of federal pay equity laws on the horizon, now’s the time for employers to learn more about achieving pay equity.