Tuesday was “Equal Pay Day,” designed to highlight the disparity in wages between the sexes, and women’s rights advocates are saying that is a perfect time to highlight that Donald Trump quietly signed an executive order rolling back hard-fought victories for women in the workplace.
Several weeks ago, President Trump revoked the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order Obama put in place to ensure that companies with federal contracts comply with 14 labor and civil rights laws. The Fair Pay order was put in place after a 2010 investigation by the Government Accountability Office revealed companies with rampant violations were being awarded huge federal contracts.
Noreen Farrell, director of the anti-sex discrimination law firm Equal Rights Advocates, said Trump went “on the attack against workers and taxpayers.”
“We have an executive order that essentially forces women to pay to keep companies in business that discriminate against them, with their own tax dollars,” said Farrell. “It’s an outrage.”
Out of the 50 worst wage theft violators that GAO examined between 2005-2009, 60 percent had been awarded federal contracts after being penalized by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. Similar violation rates were tracked through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Labor Relations Board.
But the research did not reveal much about sexual harassment or sexual assault claims. That’s because forced arbitration clauses — also sometimes called “cover-up clauses” by critics — are commonly used to keep sex discrimination claims out of the courts and off the public record.
“Arbitrations are private proceedings with secret filings and private attorneys, and they often help hide sexual harassment claims,” said Maya Raghu, Director of Workplace Equality at the National Women’s Law Center. “It can silence victims. They may feel afraid of coming forward because they might think they are the only one, or fear retaliation.”
By overturning the Fair Pay order, Trump made it possible for businesses with federal contracts to continue forcing sexual harassment cases into secret proceedings — where the public, and other employees, may never find out about rampant sex discrimination claims at a company.
This administration will stop at nothing to ensure that corporations and industry are valued more than human beings.