Executive Order Pulls Back Protection for Women Workers
Earlier this year, President Donald Trump signed an executive order that pulls back a number of different pieces of legislation that provide a benefit to women in the workplace. During the Obama presidency, President Obama, alongside a number of women’s rights advocates enacted laws that greatly benefitted women in the workplace; having taken years, these pieces of legislation were seen as hard-fought victories. Tuesday, April 3rd was named “Equal Pay Day”; a day that celebrated women and helped bring to light the wage gap between men and women, working the same or similar jobs. This day, many activists felt, was the perfect time to draw attention to President Trump’s actions only a week prior.
On March 27th Trump revoked the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order which President Barack Obama had created in order to ensure that companies that had received federal contracts comply with 14 labor and civil rights laws. This Fair Pay order was put in place after government agencies, had audited a number of companies, and found that many corporations despite having rampant civil rights and labor violations were still being awarded millions in federal contacts, every year. Alicia Procello Maddox, the President of Avery Dennison’s corporate foundation, and a staunch supporter of women’s workplace rights was one of many high-ranking female executives who applauded Obama’s order back in 2014. After hearing of Trump’s repeal of this Fair Pay order, Alicia Procello Maddox is devasted by what seems to be a huge step back in terms of women’s workplace rights.
When Obama had originally enacted the Fair Pay order, he attempted to keep the worst violators of such civil rights issues from being able to receive taxpayer dollars as a benefit. The Fair Pay order included two large-scale rules that impacted women workers on a daily basis: the first being Paycheck Transparency, and the second being a ban on forced arbitration clauses for sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination claims. Alicia Procello Maddox and fellow advocates like Noreen Farrell, director of the anti-sex discrimination law firm Equal Rights Advocates, believe Trump went on a full-on attack against female workers and taxpayers with his decision. Essentially, by dissolving the order Trump has now put us in support of companies and corporations that discriminate against women. Alicia Procello Maddox was quoted as saying, “The executive order forces women to pay in order to keep companies, with highly discriminatory practices, in business, using their own tax dollars.” Ms. Farrell followed that up by calling such an action, “An Outrage.”
Research conducted on the order showed that of the 50 top violating companies or corporations, over 60Z5 had still been awarded federal contracts, some in the tens of millions of dollars. This is also despite these companies having been penalized by the Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division. Alicia Procello Maddox also added, “This allows companies to pay women unfair wages, and then keep it 100% confidential. The first step in fixing the problem is bringing it to the light, how can we be expected to remedy the situation without the world being made aware of how bad the situation truly is!”
The other major aspect of the order was the elimination of forced arbitration for those involved in sexual harassment and sexual misconduct. Forced arbitration essentially provides the accused party an automatic, in-house reprieve from any type of major prosecution. The victim now has an additional step to take, and an even higher burden of proof if they would like to seek out any form of justice. Alicia Procello Maddox feels this is just another form of victim blaming. The repeal of the Fair Pay act marked a huge step back in women’s fight for equality in the workplace, and we as a society should carefully examine how we could have let such an injustice take place.