State Equal Pay Laws – Is Enough Being Done?

The Equal Pay Act has made provisions to protect against gender-based pay discrimination at work. Learn more about how the equal pay gap is being bridged.

Updated on April 7th, 2020

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States across the U.S. are increasing their efforts to bridge the pay equality gap that has steadily improved since the implementation of the Equal Pay Act (EPA). The EPA makes provision for the discriminatory pay gap by eliminating pay differentials based on gender.

Since the enactment of the EPA, income equality has progressively increased from 63% initially to 80% in 2018. This interactive map created by labor law firm, Fisher Phillips, illustrates the difference in equal pay laws that currently exist in every state in the U.S.

Is the Equal Pay Act sufficient to close the pay equality conundrum?

While the EPA addresses the issue of pay discrimination based on gender, it fails to identify and protect those that suffer pay disparities based on race and other protected categories. While women today earn 80% of what men are paid, women of colour earn considerably less.

According to the American Association of University Women, African American women earn 61% of what white men are paid while Hispanic women earn 53% compared to their white colleagues.

What are states doing to address the issue of pay discrimination?

Many states have made a concerted effort to bridge the pay equality gap. Several states have recently enacted bans on salary history inquiries. Washington recently amended its equal pay law that prohibits employers from defending against pay bias allegations by citing an employee’s salary history.

They have also prohibited pay discrimination for similarly employed people. New Jersey has recently amended its pay equity laws that make it easier for women and minorities to undertake legal claims of pay discrimination against employers.

Sadly, some states are rejecting the notion of pay equality. Michigan and Wisconsin have recently enacted laws that specifically allow employers to solicit information about an applicant’s salary history. Seattle has one of the worst pay disparity gaps at $0.73 for every dollar earned by men, while that figure plummets to $0.46 for women of color.

What can be done to improve these pay disparities?

Congress has the power to amend existing bills that would drastically improve the pay equality gap that currently exists and create an obligation for every state to adopt these measures. The relevant bills are discussed below:

  1. The Paycheck Fairness Act can be updated to cut off existing loopholes and toughen penalties for pay violations.
  2. The Pay Equity for All Act can be updated to ban employers from using salary history to determine future pay.
  3. The Fair Pay Act can be updated to curb occupational segregation.

Members of Congress can contribute to eliminating these pay disparities by robustly supporting the pay equality agenda through the amendment of these bills.