Lawmakers reintroduce bill to prohibit gender-based wage discrimination in Ohio
TIFFANY L. PARKS
Special to the Legal News
Published: April 9, 2013
In reintroducing the Fair and Acceptable Income Required Act into the legislature, Sen. Nina Turner said it’s “unthinkable” that men in Ohio still earn a higher wage than women for the same work.
“... in this day and age women in Ohio make only 77 cents for every dollar made by a man,” she said.
“Without question, equal work deserves equal pay. At a time when women are increasingly responsible for the economic security of their families, ensuring that they earn a wage commensurate with their work — and on par with a man’s — is absolutely critical.”
Turner, D-Cleveland, and Sen. Charleta Tavares, D-Bexley, have paired up to sponsor Senate Bill 92, also known as the FAIR Act.
The two previously introduced the measure as Senate Bill 349 in the 129th General Assembly. That measure failed to move after it was referred to the Senate Insurance, Commerce and Labor committee.
In a statement, Turner and Tavares said the FAIR Act is designed to update state laws that protect Ohioans, particularly women, from wage discrimination.
“The legislation was introduced during Women’s History Month to bring attention (to) the accomplishments of women across the country who suffer from pay discrimination,” they wrote.
If enacted, the FAIR Act would require employers to substantiate pay differences, for causes other than seniority, merit or quantity or quality of employee production, with legitimate, job-related or skill-based reasons.
It would also prohibit retaliation against workers who discuss salaries with colleagues or talk about wage inequality. In addition, the bill would ban wage discrimination based upon sexual orientation.
Tavares said current state law provides that an employer may not base differences in pay on race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin or ancestry, but has proven “far from effective” in closing the wage gap between men and women.
“While the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 improved some laws that govern pay discrimination, more must be done to close the wage gap and increase the economic security of women,” she said. “Fair pay would help close the wage gap and increase women’s economic security.”
While campaigning for SB 349 last year, Turner and Tavares also backed the Paycheck Fairness Act that was introduced into Congress.
The proposal, which was rejected by Congress in 2010 and 2012, would expand the scope of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Fair Labor Standards Act as part of an effort to address male–female income disparity in the nation.
The Paycheck Fairness Act was reintroduced in January as Senate Bill 84 by Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland.
The measure states that women have entered the workforce in record numbers over the past 50 years, but despite the enactment of the Equal Pay Act, many women continue to earn significantly lower pay than men for equal work.
“These pay disparities exist in both the private and governmental sectors. In many instances, the pay disparities can only be due to continued intentional discrimination or the lingering effects of past discrimination,” SB 84 states.
The federal proposal goes on to say that the existence of such pay disparities depresses the wages of working families who rely on the wages of all members of the family to make ends meet; undermines women’s retirement security, which is often based on earnings while in the workforce; prevents the optimum utilization of available labor resources; and burdens commerce and the free flow of goods in commerce.
“Artificial barriers to the elimination of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex continue to exist decades after the enactment of the Fair Labor Standards Act ... and the Civil Rights Act of 1964,” SB 84 states.
“These barriers have resulted, in significant part, because the Equal Pay Act has not worked as Congress originally intended. Improvements and modifications to the law are necessary to ensure that the act provides effective protection to those subject to pay discrimination on the basis of their sex.”
According to a prognosis on GovTrack, SB 84, which has 43 co-sponsors, has a 6 percent chance of getting past committee and a zero percent chance of being enacted.
In referencing data from the National Women’s Law Center, Turner said that in 2010, women working full time, year-round typically had lower earnings than men and were more likely to live in poverty.
“This gap remains even when accounting for personal choices, industry and educational attainment,” she said.
“The continued lack of income fairness based on gender places hundreds of thousands of Ohioans at risk when we should be providing more opportunities to spur economic growth for families in Ohio.”
SB 92 is co-sponsored by Sen. Edna Brown, D-Toledo. The bill is awaiting a committee assignment.
Copyright © 2013 The Daily Reporter - All Rights Reserved