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Biden, Obama urge Senate to pass Paycheck Fairness Act

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Biden touts Paycheck Fairness Act
  • The bill would require employers to provide a legitimate reason for wage discrepancies
  • The House of Representatives passed the bill in January 2009
  • Gender discrimination problem can't be solved without legislation, Biden says
  • The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has opposed the legislation

(CNN) -- Vice President Joe Biden urged the Senate on Tuesday to "get on the right side" and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, and President Barack Obama issued a statement reiterating his support of the legislation.

The bill, approved by the House in a 256-163 vote in January of last year, would require employers to provide a legitimate reason for paying different salaries to men and women performing the same job.

The vice president spoke Tuesday at a White House Middle Class Task Force event on solutions for families balancing the dual demands of work and caring for family.

Biden said the problem of gender wage discrimination can't be solved without additional legislation.

"What it does is say, 'Hey, let me know what the field is. What the deal is. Just let us know.' It's amazing what a disinfectant sunlight is," he said.

"This is a chance to get on the right side of history. You have to look into the eyes of your granddaughters and the young women who you hired ... and say, 'You know, when it came time, I didn't step up.'"

In a written statement, Obama noted that women make up half of the workforce, and two-thirds of American families with children rely on a woman's wages as a significant portion of their income. He said women still make 77 cents for every dollar that men earn.

"This is not just a question of fairness for hard-working women. Paycheck discrimination hurts families who lose out on badly needed income," Obama said. "And with so many families depending on women's wages, it hurts the American economy as a whole. In difficult economic times like these, we simply cannot afford this discriminatory burden."

Obama referenced the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, enacted in 2009, which makes it easier for women who have faced wage discrimination to recover their lost wages.

Ledbetter also spoke at the Middle Class Task Force event, saying she supports the legislation.

"Had the Paycheck Fairness bill been law during my day, I wouldn't have had to go as far as I did," she said. "I could have asked the employer, 'How do I stand with my co-workers?' ... and not worry about retaliation."

Opponents worry the act would spur unnecessary lawsuits. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has said the act would "burden America's businesses with frivolous litigation during already trying economic times.

The chamber has said the act also would "expand remedies under the Equal Pay Act (EPA) to include unlimited punitive and compensatory damages, significantly erode employer defenses for legitimate pay disparities, and impose invalid tools for enforcement by the Labor Department."