The Battle for Equal Pay Continues

Monday, April 17th, 2017

Earlier this month, NFWL encouraged legislators to acknowledge Equal Pay Day and take action on the issue. We shared legislation to proclaim Equal Pay Day in your state, pass legislation to close the wage gap, and to work to continually increase the standards for companies to provide equal pay. This conversation is unfortunately never ending, as NFWL’s former Chair, New Jersey Senator Diane Allen, continues to make this initiative a priority, noting, “In 1996, women and pay equity advocates around the world observed the first Equal Pay Day, a public awareness event that sheds light on exactly how many additional days into the new year women have to work to earn what men earned the previous year.”

Since April 4th, we have already seen new legislation pass in the states. Legislators in Connecticut have reached across the aisle to pass HB 5591, which strengthens the state’s pay equity laws by protecting workers from being penalized for taking approved parental leave. The final iteration of the bill did not include some of the stronger policy language the initial sponsors were hoping for, but compromise is an essential part of policymaking.

There are many resources available on this issue. The American Association of University Women has done some very comprehensive work on this issue, and offers great resources like this infographic providing specific information on every state. The National Women’s Law Center recently compiled a toolkit for policies that employers can adopt to decrease the wage gap including conducting equal pay audits and promoting pay transparency. They also note racial disparity inherent in this issue, emphasizing that African American and Latina women do not achieve mark of pay equity until September and November.

NFWL has been engaged in many events on this issue, visiting Massachusetts, where they recently passed S.2119, now Chapter 177 of the Acts of 2016, with the support of former NFWL Massachusetts State Director Representative Gloria Fox. The new law will go into effect in July 2018 and gives women more opportunities to bridge the wage gap by enabling employees to discuss their salaries freely and prohibiting applications from detailing salary history. The bill was passed with bipartisan support and supported by the Massachusetts Caucus of Women Legislators. The caucus hosted a panel celebrating Women’s History Month, featuring female legislative leaders of the past and present. One speaker, Senator Lois Pines, spoke about the continued state policy battle she led in Massachusetts, defending the Equal Credit Opportunity Act and the right for women to have a line of credit without a husband.

NFWL was in Vermont for their ceremonial signing of the Proclamation of Equal Pay Day and press conference featuring the new report from Change The Story, an initiative of three statewide organizations with a longstanding focus on women’s economic well-being – the Vermont Women’s Fund, the Vermont Commission on Women, and Vermont Works for Women.  The state has a history of strong legislation supporting Equal Pay initiatives, including the state’s Commission on Women establishing the Vermont Equal Pay Compact, which has successfully encouraged Vermont-based employers to commit to closing the gender wage gap. The 2017 Session featured S.110, which would create record-keeping and reporting requirements in relation to existing equal pay provisions and require the Commissioner of Labor to analyze and address the presence of gender and other bias in State-supported training programs.

Are you an elected woman working on equal pay legislation? Share your legislation and story with us.