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Lawmakers Split on EEOC Halt of Future Gender, Race Pay Reports

Nov. 13, 2019, 5:45 PM

Lawmakers in Congress are taking partisan sides on the debate over the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s decision to discontinue collecting worker pay data, in advance of a public hearing on the issue.

House Republicans and Senate Democrats sent dueling letters to the EEOC roughly a week before the hearing. The lawmakers largely reiterated arguments previously made by business groups and worker advocates, respectively.

The burden on employers to collect the data, its lack of utility, and confidentiality risks are reasons enough to halt the pay data collection, ranking Republican members on the House Committee on Education and Labor Virginia Foxx (Va.) and James Comer (Ky.) said in a Nov. 12 letter to EEOC Chair Janet Dhillon.

This year, the EEOC began collecting wage information from thousands of employers for the first time as part of an annual workforce diversity report, known as the EEO-1, that analyzes race, sex, and ethnicity data. The agency decided in September that it wouldn’t collect pay data in future EEO-1 reports.

Twenty-eight Senate Democrats, including Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety Ranking Member Tammy Baldwin (Wisc.), opposed that decision in a Nov. 12 letter to Dhillon.

Discontinuing the collection “will undermine the agency’s critical mission of identifying industries and workplaces where inequity exists and holding employers accountable for pay discrimination,” the Democrats wrote in the letter.

Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and other Democrats also signed the letter.

The EEOC approved pay data collection for the first time several years ago, until the White House’s Office of Management and Budget stayed it in 2017. Worker advocates sued later that year, and a federal judge reinstated the collection in March. That collection is still ongoing.

In support of its decision to end pay reporting, the EEOC cited newly calculated burden costs that exceed previous estimates. The agency also said further study of the utility of the pay data is necessary before committing to additional collections.

A public hearing on the topic of whether to continue collecting the data is scheduled for Nov. 20, and public comment on the proposal to discontinue the pay data collections closed Nov. 12.

To contact the reporter on this story: Paige Smith in Washington at psmith@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jay-Anne B. Casuga at jcasuga@bloomberglaw.com; Chris Opfer at copfer@bloomberglaw.com