BUSINESS

Obama's Paycheck Fairness Act Push Could Revolutionize Walmart, Retail Sector

Feb 12, 2013 | Updated Feb 13, 2013

President Barack Obama urged Congress during Tuesday’s State of the Union address to enact legislation ensuring that men and women receive equal pay for equal work.

"I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year," Obama said, referring to a bill blocked by Senate Republicans last June.

Passing such legislation would revolutionize the retail sector and, possibly, bring big changes to the country's largest retailer: Walmart. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics retail sales jobs have the second largest gender pay gap of any profession. The job with the widest pay gap is insurance agent, according to BLS, but far more Americans are working retail: Around 4.5 million people work in retail sales in the U.S., half earn less than $21,000 per year, according to the BLS.

That’s slightly more than a salaried Walmart sales associate, who earns a little more than $17,000 on average, according to PayScale.

The Labor Department doesn't break out the data by company, so it's not clear if there is a wage gap at the nation's largest retailer. Walmart successfully defended a class-action charging widespread gender wage discrimination at the Supreme Court in 2011. The High Court did not rule on whether or not Walmart showed bias in paying women, instead saying that the workers did not have standing to sue as a class.

HuffPost emailed a Walmart spokesperson for comment and we will update with the company's response.

After the Paycheck Fairness Act's June rejection, Obama called it “incredibly disappointing” that Senate Republicans “put partisan politics ahead of American women and their families." According to HuffPost’s Jennifer Bendery:

[The bill] would have required employers to demonstrate that any salary differences between men and women doing the same work are not gender-related. The bill also would have prohibited employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information with their co-workers, and would have required the Labor Department to increase its outreach to employers to help eliminate pay disparities.

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