Oh, glorious spring! The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and all of the metaphorical references to the significance of the season begin again. It’s time to renew, revive, recharge! Unfortunately, federal efforts to collect employee compensation data more closely resemble a tree in winter: frozen and dormant; its fruit trapped in its branches.

A coalition of advocates for equal pay recently sent a letter to President Obama highlighting the problem:

[T]here currently is no mechanism for federal enforcement agencies to detect widespread wage discrimination, even when it occurs in our nation’s largest employers.

If alarm bells aren’t going off inside your brain right now, here’s why they should be:

  1. 50 years after the Equal Pay Act became law, women are still paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to a man; yet, the government does not have the basic information it needs to enforce this law;
  2.  The Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (“OFCCP”) and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) already collect data to aid in the enforcement of other civil rights laws but still do not collect information about pay; and
  3. The vast majority of Americans support federal actions that give women more tools to get fair pay in the workplace.

The good news is OFCCP has already carefully prepared the soil and planted the seeds: OFCCP proposed a new compensation data collection tool in 2011, saying“[t]he [proposed tool] comes at a critical time for our nation’s workforce. Women still earn only 77 cents for each dollar earned by a man.” It is time for OFCCP to finalize and implement this new tool, and for the EEOC to take the next steps toward implementing data collection for the private sector workforce.

For those in need of a little seasonal inspiration on this depressing day in 2013 on which women’s wages have finally caught up to what men were paid in 2012, have a listen to They Say It’s Spring by Blossom Dearie.

And then – in the spirit of spring – let’s breathe new life into the fight for equal pay by calling on OFCCP and EEOC to implement data collection tools to detect and remedy pay discrimination.

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