Last year I had the pleasure of meeting AnnMarie Duchon. She testified before the House Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee that after learning she was being paid unfairly she was able to confirm the information with her coworkers and negotiate with her boss for a salary increase. Pretty impressive, right?

But unfortunately, the conversations had by AnnMarie would be banned in a lot of workplaces. In fact, a 2010 IWPR poll found that around half of private sector workers believe that they cannot share their salaries.

Policies and practices that keep women in the dark about pay disparities diminish their ability to enforce their rights to fair pay and allow unfair pay practices to flourish. My best evidence? Lilly Ledbetter. Goodyear, a federal contractor, had one of these insane punitive pay secrecy policies and Lilly Ledbetter worked there almost 20 years before learning that she was being paid less than her male coworkers. In case you’re counting, the money she lost not only hurt her ability to pay for basics like groceries and utilities, she is still losing money to this day because the discriminatory pay is reflected in her retirement.

So here is the question we’re asking today about these punitive policies: How long? How long will it take for you to detect your unfair pay? How long will you have to work to make up the years of lost earnings?

And how long will we have to wait before this sort of retaliation is banned?

There are policy solutions ready to go – the Paycheck Fairness Act would fix this problem by banning retaliation against workers who want to ask about their wages. And this week NWLC, along with over 100 organizations, sent a letter to the President to ask that he use his executive authority to ban retaliation against the employees of federal contractors.

After a decade of no progress on the wage gap, women and their families shouldn’t have to wait any longer.

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