By: Emily Werth, FellowPosted on August 7, 2014 Issues: Equal Pay & the Wage Gap Workplace Justice

It is a very simple principle — you can’t fix a problem that you don’t know about.

With that in mind, yesterday the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs — the agency charged with enforcing laws that prohibit discrimination by companies that contract with the federal government — announced a proposal for a new rule that will require certain contractors to report on how they pay their workers.

The annual Equal Pay Report that contractors will have to submit if this new rule is adopted will include information about employee compensation and the demographics of the company’s workforce. Having such data will help OFCCP to root out pay discrimination against women and minorities more effectively. The collection and reporting of this data to the government will also give contractors strong incentives to proactively monitor their own pay practices and to eliminate any unjustified pay disparities.

President Obama had instructed OFCCP to release this proposed rule in a memorandum that he signed last Equal Pay Day. He simultaneously signed an Executive Order that prohibited federal contractors from punishing workers who share information about their pay, another critical action to ensure that federal contract workers have the ability to uncover and remedy pay discrimination.

The public will now have an opportunity to provide comments on OFCCP’s proposed rule for collecting pay data from federal contractors. The time period to submit comments will end on November 6, 2014.

While the combination of this proposed rule and the recent Executive Order will make it easier to combat pay discrimination by companies that are federal contractors, many workers at other private companies still face punitive pay secrecy policies that prevent them from finding out and doing something about unequal pay. These administrative actions will take care of a piece of the problem, but the Paycheck Fairness Act would provide a more holistic remedy to ensure that all workers are protected when they talk about their pay.

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