WASHINGTON — The Obama administration said Friday it will require employers with at least 100 workers to submit detailed pay data by gender, race and ethnicity in an effort to find businesses that are "unlawfully shortchanging workers."
A main focus of the new rules, to take effect Sept. 30, 2017, is to advance efforts to ensure that women are paid the same as men for doing the same job, as federal law requires.
The White House said that the median annual wage for a woman working full time was $39,600 — 79 percent the median wage for a man. Some critics, however, have said that generalized figure overstates the difference.
Though the gap has "narrowed slightly" the past two years, it is still too wide, the White House said.
"What kind of example does paying women less set for our sons and daughters?" President Barack Obama said in discussing the action while marking the seventh anniversary of his signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
The legislation made it easier for workers to challenge what they view as unfair pay.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce said the new reporting requirement is burdensome.
Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation, said women's rights activists have been pushing to gather such data since the late 1960s.
The federal action comes after California last fall enacted a tough law to ensure that men and women who perform "substantially similar" work receive equal pay.
All employers with at least 100 workers would submit the data across 10 job categories and 12 pay ranges on a form they already are required to submit annually that includes employment data by gender, race and ethnicity. Specific salaries would not have to be reported, and the results will not be made public.