On Tuesday, President Obama continued his efforts to take available action to implement his labor agenda without congressional approval. The latest steps involve two new executive orders affecting federal government contractors. The first order prohibits contractors from stopping employees from discussing their salaries among themselves. The second order directs the Department of Labor to begin collecting compensation data from contractors based on gender and race.
The two provisions are similar to pending legislation intended to address gender disparities in compensation. They are intended to provide transparency in pay in order to encourage employees to seek equal compensation. The National Labor Relations Board already takes the position that policies that prohibit employees from discussing their compensation violate the NLRA for all employers, not just federal contractors. The new order gives contractors’ employees another means for addressing employer violations of this principle.
As with previous executive orders affecting contractors’ minimum wage, the new measures may be mostly symbolic. The pending legislation on pay equality stands little chance of congressional approval, and the President appears limited to use of executive powers to address his labor proposals. The next step may be to prohibit discrimination by federal contractors on the basis of employee sexual orientation.