State pay equity laws, in large part, has been a response to a perception that the federal government is not acting effectively or quickly enough to address gender and race pay gaps. Not surprisingly, several democratic presidential candidates have staked out platforms on how they will address pay inequities at the federal level – some more specific than others.

The candidates’ platform themes include:

  • Requiring federal contractors to periodically report pay and diversity data, and withholding federal contracts from employers with poor records advancing diversity and pay equity;
  • Compelling employers to report diversity statistics regarding representation and pay of women and men in leadership positions, including a focus on promotional opportunities;
  • Requiring employers to obtain “Equal Pay Certification” by proving pay equity between men and women. According to one candidate, employers with at least 100 employees would be required to obtain Equal Pay Certification from the EEOC within three years and every two years thereafter. Employers with at least 500 employees would have two years to certify;
    • Under this plan, employers unable to prove pay equity would be fined for every 1-percent gap in pay, after accounting for job titles, experience, and performance;
    • Equal Pay Certification would first be required of federal contractors pursuant to an executive order;
  • Reporting of gender and race pay gaps, regardless of job title, experience, or performance.
  • Banning salary history inquiries and the use of prior salary to determine starting pay;
  • Raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour;
  • Banning forced arbitration of employer-employee legal disputes, including pay disputes;
  • Enacting family leave requirements; and
  • Working to pass the federal Paycheck Fairness Act in the U.S. Congress.

Two basic themes are apparent: compelling employers to be more transparent in their pay practices will draw attention and action to address pay equity issues; and paying attention to pay equity alone is not enough if women and minorities are not well-represented at all workforce levels.

The Democratic candidates are following existing pay equity strategies and themes of the states, as well as of countries in the European Union. Of course, while no one can predict outcomes of elections, whether at the federal or state level, efforts to address pay equity are not likely to die down anytime soon.