WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jewish groups expressed disappointment in the U.S. Senate’s failure to pass an enhanced equal pay act.
The Paycheck Fairness Act, passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last year, would have enhanced the 1963 Equal Pay Act, one of the first civil rights acts, to restrict the criteria employers use to justify pay differentials and to eliminate caps on discrimination lawsuits, among other measures.
Business groups opposed the law, saying its measures were burdensome and costly.
On Wednesday, the Senate failed to garner the necessary 60 votes to bring the matter to a vote on the floor; the effort to break the filibuster won 58 votes, two short, largely along partisan lines, with the Democratic majority backing the bill.
"The Senate’s failure to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act — indeed, its failure even to agree to vote on it — is a direct blow against workplace equality for women," said the National Council of Jewish Women, one of several groups that led lobbying for its passage. "The Paycheck Fairness Act would have added much needed protections to existing law — strengthening penalties for equal pay violators, training employers to better comply with the law, providing skills training for employees, and barring retaliation against workers who inquire about employers’ wage practices or disclose their own wages."
The Reform movement’s Religious Action Center, one of a number of other Jewish groups backing the bill, said "pay equity is a moral issue, one in which our religious beliefs in the fundamental equality between men and women and the dignity of work and fair compensation guide and strengthen our voices."
After the vote, President Obama hosted representatives of the RAC and NCJW and a handful of other groups that had backed passage to discuss strategies to reintroduce the legislation in the new Congress in January, when Republicans will control the U.S. House of Representatives.