Gender Pay Equity Bill Introduced

At its current rate, the pay gap for women in Washington state compared to men won’t close until 2070. As the new legislative session begins, hopes are high that 2018 is the year lawmakers update the state’s equal-pay laws and close that gap much sooner. On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Labor and Commerce heard public testimony on Senate Bill 5140. It would require companies to have job-related reasons for pay differences – such as education or experience – and access to career opportunities like promotions. Marilyn Watkins with the Economic Opportunity Institute, who testified at the Senate hearing, says women working full-time in Washington make 14-thousand dollars less than men each year.

“That has a big impact, not only on those women, but on their families, on their children’s ability to succeed and thrive, and on all of our communities. Our whole economy is brought down when women are being paid less.”

Watkins adds that gap becomes larger over a woman’s life, which affects her retirement – and the gap is even greater for women of color. In each of the past three years, the state Senate has nixed equal-pay bills – but now under Democratic control, they might have a better chance of passing. The #MeToo movement could add steam to the issue of gender discrimination as well.

S-B 5140 would also prohibit retaliation against employees for asking about wages. It would shift the burden of proof in discrimination cases from workers to employers, who would have to demonstrate the business reasons for pay differences. Watkins says this is about more than the pay gap. She says workplace discrimination is pervasive, and describes a well-known scene in which a woman presents an idea and has it ignored, only to hear a man present the same idea and get recognition for it.

“Women’s contributions simply seem to be invisible, particularly to men, sometimes also to other women. So, I think we really want to start highlighting these kinds of things, making people more conscious of them. And hopefully, that’s going to be part of a real cultural change, that’ll go along with the legal change to really make a difference.”

Wednesday’s Senate hearing also included Senate Bill 5555, which would stop an employer from asking about the wage history of a potential employee.

1 Comment on "Gender Pay Equity Bill Introduced"

  1. This bill will join the growing list of failed measures:

    -The national War Labor Board mandated in World War I that if women must undertake work normally done by men, they should earn equal pay for that work
    -President Einsenhower’s equal-pay urging in his 1956 State of the Union Address
    -The 1963 Equal Pay for Equal Work Act
    -Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act
    -The 1978 Pregnancy Discrimination Act
    -Affirmative action (created for blacks but has benefited mostly white women, the group most vocal about the wage gap –
    -The 1991 amendments to Title VII
    -The 1991 Glass Ceiling Commission created by the Civil Rights Act
    -The 1993 Family and Medical Leave Act
    -The Age Discrimination in Employment Act
    -The Americans with Disability Act (Title I)
    -Workplace diversity
    -The countless state and local laws and regulations
    -The thousands of company mentors for women
    -The horde of overseers at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
    -TV’s and movies’ last three decades of casting women as thoroughly integrated into the world of work (even in the ultra-macho world of spying, James Bond’s boss is a woman)
    -The National Labor Relations Act
    -The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, signed into law by President Obama in 2009, after he campaigned repeatedly on a promise to close the gender wage gap, but failed even though for his first two years of his presidency the Democrats controlled the White House, the Senate, and the House of Representatives
    -The 2010 National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force
    -It is highly likely that the 2016 EEO-1 report, which begins collecting summary pay data, will join this list of failed measures.

    “Salary Secrecy — Discrimination Against Women?”

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