March 28 (UPI) — The House approved a bill aiming to help close the gender pay gap Wednesday, a priority highlighted by Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
The Paycheck Fairness Act, sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., passed by a vote of 242-187, receiving votes from all 235 House Democrats and seven Republicans.
DeLauro’s bill would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to require employers to prove pay disparities are related to job-related reasons and strengthen penalties against businesses that pay women unequal wages.
It would also end the practice of pay secrecy in workplaces as well as prohibit businesses from retaliating against employees who discuss their wages and seeking previous salaries of prospective hires.
“I cannot tell you how difficult it has been to break through on something so simple: Men and women in the same job deserve the same pay,” DeLauro said. “But now the issue and the environment have collided. Equal pay is at the center of our public discourse.”
The House previously passed versions of the bill in 2008 and 2010, but those efforts were never signed into law. Language was added to the most recent version aimed at settling disparities in wages based on race as well.
“The sad truth is that women, especially of color, are still paid less than their male counterparts for the same job. I know this because it happened to me,” Rep. Norma Torres, D-Calif., said.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, was one of two Republicans in the House who also voted in favor of previous versions of the bill and said he supported DeLauro’s bill because it was “not substantially different.”
He added however that he wished Democrats had made the bill more bipartisan.
“I wish that Democrats had actually put something forward that actually could get close to becoming law,” Diaz-Balart said. “There’s things I don’t like in it, obviously, but I have voted for it, in essence, twice before.”
Some Republicans, including Rep. Virginia Foxx of North Carolina, expressed concern the version of the bill passed Wednesday would lead to an influx of lawsuits against employers.
“This bill doesn’t do anything to help working women,” Foxx said. “This is a bill for trial lawyers, plain and simple … Democrats want women to sue their bosses. Republicans want women to become the bosses.”
Democrats will now seek to pressure the Republican-led Senate to pass the bill and send it to President Donald Trump for approval.