Q&A: 5 Questions For Equal Pay Advocate Deborah Eisenberg

By Lorraine Mirabella
The Baltimore Sun.

Deborah Eisenberg started her law career as a litigator who loved the “thrill of the battle,” standing up for the disadvantaged and less powerful. But sometimes, she says, it’s better to talk it out when it comes to resolving disputes.

Eisenberg, a professor at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, specializes in employment law and dispute resolutions. She serves as faculty director of the UM Carey Center for Dispute Resolution and also works as a mediator in civil and employment cases.

She also has championed equal pay for women, an issue that’s drawn renewed attention recently.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama signed two executive orders designed to close wage gaps for women and minorities who work for federal contractors. The orders coincided with National Equal Pay Day, a public awareness event symbolizing how far into 2014 women must work to earn what men did in 2013.

Eisenberg testified earlier this month before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions in support of the Paycheck Fairness Act, legislation that fell short in a vote to move to debate in the Senate.

The act was designed to stop employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information and to make it easier to negotiate for equal pay. Opponents argued that the measure would only lead to more lawsuits against employers.

Eisenberg offered some of her views on the issue and on what it takes to resolve disputes without lawsuits.

QUESTION: When you testified on the Paycheck Fairness Act, you said that 50 years after the Equal Pay Act was passed, pay discrimination remains a serious problem for many women. How so and what are some reasons?

ANSWER: Although women have achieved great success in the workplace, gender pay discrimination between men and women performing the same work persists for several complex reasons. It is shocking some cases still involve blatant sexist attitudes that, for example, women “don’t have the right equipment” to be paid as much as a man, that men deserve more pay or that mothers should not be working.

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