The President made news yesterday by issuing an executive order aimed at Government contractors. This new executive order prohibits Government contractors from discriminating against employees from disclosing or discussing their compensation levels with co-workers. The President believes that contractors are prohibiting employees from discussing their compensation levels with one another and thereby using that silence to circumvent equal pay laws for women. Senior White House Adviser Valerie Jarrett was quoted as saying "It's very difficult for women to know they are being discriminated against if they can't talk to one another about compensation".
The exact wording of the Executive Order states:
The contractor will not discharge or in any other manner discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because such employee or applicant has inquired about, discussed, or disclosed the compensation of the employee or applicant or another employee or applicant. This provision shall not apply to instances in which an employee who has access to the compensation information or other employees or applicants as part of such employee's essential job functions discloses the compensation of such other employees or applicants to individuals who do not otherwise have access to such information, unless such disclosure is in response to a formal complaint or charge, in furtherance of an investigation, proceeding, hearing, or action, including an investigation conducted by the employer, or is consistent with the contractor's legal duty to furnish information.Well, first of all, we don't know of any Government contractor that explicitly prohibits employees from discussing their compensation among themselves though that's not to say there are none. If there are, its a very small minority. Second, anyone who's been in the workplace knows that everyone knows what their peers and co-workers make. You cannot keep that a secret. The largest contractors, representing perhaps 80 percent of all workers on Government contracts, have published pay scales. They're just like the Government - anyone can look up what a GS-12, Step 5, in the Chicago metropolitan area makes - and its the same amount for both men and women.
The President also issued a "presidential memorandum" requiring that the Secretary of Labor establish new regulations requiring Government contractors to start sending copious amounts of data to the Department of Labor so that the Department can compile and study it and do whatever it is that Government agencies do with piles of data. Expect new regulations to appear soon requiring data by sex. And don't expect that it will be a simple compilation. These data requests are never simple.