Senator Heidi Heitkamp United States Senator for North Dakota

Press Releases

Apr 10 2018

On Equal Pay Day, Heitkamp Calls for Closing Wage Gap, Urges Congress to Pass Her FAMILY Act to Support Working Families

North Dakota Women Make 74 Cents to Every Dollar Paid to Men; North Dakota Ranks as Fifth-Worst State for Wage Gap

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Equal Pay Day, U.S. Senator Heidi Heitkamp called for Congress to take swift action to promote pay equity for women in the workplace, as well as to boost the financial security of working families. On average, North Dakota women make 74 percent of what men make for the same work— the fifth-worst pay gap in the country.

Heitkamp has continued to fight in the U.S. Senate for pay equity, as well as for a federal paid family and medical leave policy and other issues directly impacting working families in North Dakota and across the country. Last year, Heitkamp helped reintroduce the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, which would establish a federal paid family and medical leave policy and help close the wage gap between men and women. The bill would provide working families with the paid flexibility to care for their loved ones while also boosting the ability of small businesses to support and retain employees. The bill would help close the wage gap by making sure women don’t have to choose between their families and their jobs.

“No matter if you’re a private business or a government office, women should get the same salary as men for the same work – but unfortunately, that often isn’t the case. Equal Pay Day is a reminder that the wage gap affects women across all industries, education levels, and ages,” said Heitkamp. “By continuing to short-change millions of mothers and daughters in the workplace, employers are also short-changing working families, who could use full salaries to pay the bills, afford childcare and health care, and provide high-quality education to their kids. We need strong policies that support working families, which is why Congress needs to pass my FAMILY Act, so that employees don’t have to choose between their families and their good-paying jobs. The issue of paid family leave is critical in addressing the wage gap and, if Congress continue to do nothing, we will continue to see that wage gap exist. By providing equal opportunities to women and meeting the needs of both new mothers and fathers, we will build stronger families and a stronger North Dakota economy.”

Heitkamp also called on the administration to review its decision to revoke a critical rule protecting women from pay discrimination in federal contracting positions. Last year, the president signed an executive order that rolled back the rule mandating that federal contractors comply with rules to provide paycheck transparency and ban forced arbitration clauses for sexual harassment, sexual assault, or discrimination claims.

Heitkamp is a strong supporter of the Paycheck Fairness Act – which was blocked on multiple occasions in 2014 by Senate Republicans— to help close the startling wage gap between men and women.

And last week, Heitkamp convened a discussion in Jamestown to highlight successful women-owned small businesses in the region and discuss effective strategies to encourage and support more women-focused enterprises. Among topics discussed included paid family leave, pay equity, childcare support, and the need to hire more women in leadership positions.

Some of the statistics about what the gender pay gap is costing women and families in North Dakota include:

  • Each year, North Dakota women are paid an average of $13,382 less than men for the same work.

Heitkamp’s FAMILY Act would provide working women and men with up to 12 weeks of partial income when they take leave for their own serious health condition— including pregnancy and childbirth recovery, the serious health condition of a child, parent, or spouse, and the birth or adoption of a child. In April 2016, Heitkamp and U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), who first introduced the FAMILY Act, visited North Dakota, where they spoke with working families, entrepreneurs, and local leaders in Fargo and Jamestown about the challenges families and small business owners face when companies lack paid leave policies.

Nationally, businesses spend an average of one-fifth of an employee’s salary on replacing workers, and over a lifetime, men and women will lose a respective $284,000 and $324,000 because of the lack of paid leave policies in their workplaces.

In April 2016, Heitkamp and Gillibrand also participated in a panel discussion on gender pay equity hosted by Third Way— a bipartisan think tank— entitled “Getting Her Money’s Worth: What Will It Take to Achieve Equal Pay?” During the event, Heitkamp reinforced the importance of commonsense policies like establishing federal paid family leave. Click here to watch a video from the discussion.

The FAMILY Act would address the wage gap in our country by making sure women and men have the flexibility they need to take time off after the birth of a baby or to care for a sick parent or kid and still return to the job they left. It enables women to maintain their seniority in their jobs, their benefits, and their standing at their jobs so they won’t have to start over from scratch at a new employer. The bill also boosts the ability of small businesses to support and retain employees.

Currently, the United States is the only industrialized nation in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave. The other countries that do not offer it are Swaziland, Lesotho, and Papua New Guinea.


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