A proposed bill that seeks to strengthen pay equity laws may have merit, but the state should see how a similar law plays out in Massachusetts before adopting it here.
Federal and state laws already make wage disparities based on gender illegal, but a bill proposed by state Rep. Derek Slap (D-West Hartford), is designed to target conditions that perpetuate the gender gap.
The bill was one of several measures the legislature's Labor and Public Employees Committee considered during a Jan. 31 public hearing.
HB 5210 is based on a first-in-the nation law that passed in Massachusetts last year. Among other things, it would:
- Prohibit employers from asking a prospective employee's wage and salary history before an employment offer with compensation is negotiated. Prospective employees may volunteer information on their wage and salary history.
- Prohibit employers from using an employee's previous wage or salary history as a defense in an equal pay lawsuit.
- Provide employers with an affirmative defense against an equal pay lawsuit if it can demonstrate that, within three years prior to commencement of the lawsuit, the employer completed a good faith self-evaluation of its pay practices and can demonstrate that reasonable progress has been made towards eliminating gender-based wage differentials.
- Protect seniority pay differentials from adverse adjustments for time spent on leave due to pregnancy-related conditions or protected parental, family and medical leave.
Slap, who testified with his daughters, Maggie, 12, and Zoe, 10, said that as the father of two girls, he feels he must do something to address wage inequities.
“I believe the growing consensus that gender-based wage discrimination is bad for the economy,” he said.
Nationwide, women earn 79 cents for every $1 a man earns, he said.
In Connecticut, the figure is higher with women earning 83 cents to the dollar for men. But the amount is lower for Hispanic and African-American women, and single mothers, he said.
Such studies, like the one cited by Rep. Slap, fail to take into account the value of non-wage benefits and lifestyle choices desired by job candidates.
Connecticut staffing agencies have noted that while not true in every instance, some candidates typically only ask about a prospective job’s salary, while others ask more follow up questions on other benefits.
Pay History Shows Perceived Value of Work
“The Connecticut Business and Industry Association in no way supports gender-based wage discrimination. That’s absolutely reprehensible if there are businesses out there engaging in that,” said CBIA Counsel Eric Gjede, reinforcing that the association favors equal pay, which is already the law of the land.
Gjede said knowing an applicant’s salary history is important to employers, but not for reasons related to gender.
“Hiring a new employee is one of the most costly and time-consuming activities a business can engage in,” he said.
“Salary history can often provide information that is not in the resume. And often, it’s used to determine compatibility between the employer and the employee.”
Salary history often provides information that is not in a resume and is used to determine compatibility between employer and employee.
“One of the questions they ask is salary to see if they can get you more money in the next job,” he said.
Gjede urged committee members to monitor the effects of the Massachusetts law, which takes effect January 1, 2018, before rushing to pass it here.
The next step for the Labor Committee is to draft the bill into full statutory form so it can be considered for a committee vote.
“Right now, [the bill] is only a list with proposed changes. And a few of those seem reasonable,” Gjede said. “I do ask that we be part of this conversation about this bill going forward.”
Gjede also testified on HB 5286, which excludes certain "highly compensated" employees from receiving overtime under state law.
Currently, those employees are excluded only under federal law.
He said Connecticut businesses are seeking consistency between state and federal wage and hour laws, and this would help provide it.
“Making this change would certainly make compliance with the law easier for businesses but we would also suggest that you add computer employees and learned professionals to this list of folks you’re exempting from state overtime provisions to add additional consistency between state and federal wage-and-hour laws,” Gjede said.
He noted that highly compensated employees are, under federal law, people who earn $100,000 annually and would be above any overtime threshold changes proposed and retracted by the federal government in recent months.
Committee members will decide whether to take action on these proposals in the coming weeks.