A legislative compromise reached in the dead end on pay equity

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PROVIDENCE – Legislative compromise has been reached in the long-standing struggle for “pay equity” for women, people of color and others who historically have not always received equal pay, for work comparable.

House Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi announced the terms of the compromise on Wednesday, as the House Labor Committee released the reworked bill for a vote on Friday.

As he explained in the latest version of the bill, H 5261 Sub A, it is aimed at “wage discrimination based on race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability. , age and country of origin ”.

“It expands employee protections and the scope of remedies available to employees who have experienced such discrimination. “

“I have experienced first-hand what it is like to be paid unevenly when you do comparable work,” said the main sponsor of the House, Bristol representative, Susan Donovan.

“This is a devastating blow both emotionally and financially for so many women and people of color across Rhode Island. This bill has been my priority since my first term in the legislature. I am delighted to see him a little closer to the passage.

According to data from the National Women’s Law Center, based on the 2019 U.S. Community Census Survey, women in Rhode Island earn 85 cents for every dollar earned by men, for a difference of $ 8,722 per year.

The legal center found that the pay gap would pay eight months rent (at $ 1,043 gross monthly media rent); nine months of child care (at average monthly child care cost of $ 895), or 19 months of health insurance premiums (at average monthly health insurance premium cost of $ 454).

Over a 40-year career, it would amount to $ 402,400.

The gap increases if women’s earnings are compared to those of non-Hispanic white men, according to the Legal Center. He found that for every dollar earned by a non-Hispanic white man:

-White women earn 83 cents

-Black women earn 61 cents

-Asian women earn 73 cents

-Latinas earn 53 cents

“This loss not only harms women’s economic security while in employment, but it also impacts their future earnings when they retire and receive Social Security,” said the Rhode Island National Women’s Organization. to legislators. “We cannot achieve pay equity if hiring practices are based on salary history and not on what the employee brings to the job in terms of skills and talent.

Shekarchi called the compromise legislation “the result of many hours of marathon negotiations. I congratulate the advocates and representatives of the business community who have worked tirelessly since the start of this year’s session.”

As he explained, the latest version of the bill:

• Ensures that all employees are paid fairly and equally.

• Provides that, if an employer breaks the law, employees may be eligible to collect back wages, unpaid wages and damages.

• Allows a job seeker, employee or former employee to seek redress for an employer’s illegal wage practices at the Ministry of Labor and Training or in court.

• “Even the playing field for job seekers and employees negotiating wages and salaries with an employer … [by requiring] more transparency on the part of employers with regard to salary scales. … He [also] protects candidates and employees from potentially damaging salary history information. ”

• Protects “good employers” who are proactive and audit wages to correct any illegal wage practices.

“Due to the hard work of advocates and the business community, I predict that this law will be a model of pay equity in the country,” Shekarchi said.

“We have taken the best practices adopted in Massachusetts and Oregon and blended them into a final product that will ensure women receive fair compensation and protections in our state. Women deserve the same consideration as their counterparts.

Past efforts have flared up, including the Senate’s memorable refusal to accept the dramatically watered-down version of a bill it passed, which emerged from the House under then-President Nicholas Mattiello.

The incident was one of the determining factors in a battle to oust Mattiello from management.

“Pay inequality for women and people of color is a critical issue for working families,” said Georgia Hollister Isman, New England regional director for the Working Families Party, Wednesday.

“Closing the wage gap is a necessary step towards gender justice and racial justice, and will help Rhode Island workers pay for groceries, child care, rent and more “she said.

Bob Goldberg, lobbyist for the Grand Providence Chamber of Commerce, thanked Shekarchi “for all the time and effort he put into making this proposal much better than the original proposal.

“It’s unheard of for a president to put so much work into a bill and we appreciate his efforts,” Goldberg said.

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