CONNECTICUT CLOSE TO PASSING NEW PAY EQUITY LAW

Pay Equity

The Connecticut House of Representatives voted to pass a pay equity bill, and the Senate will have its opportunity to vote on the same bill soon. Even though the bill has not become law yet, it is worth taking a look at in light of what has been happening on this topic both on the federal level and in other states.

Paying women less than men – or men less than women – for similar work is already illegal in Connecticut. Section 31-75 of the Connecticut General Statutes provides that employers may not pay employees at a rate less than the rate paid to employees of the opposite sex “for equal work on a job, the performance of which requires equal skill, effort and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.” Under that law, employers may, however, pay employees of the opposite sex more for similar work if that differential is based on (1) a seniority system; (2) a merit system; (3) a system measuring earnings by quantity or quality of production (i.e., commission); or (4) a system based on a bona fide factor other than sex, such as education, training or experience, as long as that factor is not based on sex and is job-related.

If pay inequity is already against the law in Connecticut, then what does this bill even do? Among other things, it changes the standard from “similar working conditions” to “comparable working conditions,” in an apparent effort to expand the scope of the law to provide protection to more employees (though it is unclear what legal significance, if any, this change will have); bans employers from using an employee’s previous salary as a defense against an allegation of unequal pay; and prohibits employers from reducing an employee’s seniority for use of maternity or other family or medical leave. (See More Regarding CFMLA & FMLA)

Absent from the bill passed by the House is a provision prohibiting employers from asking about the salary history of prospective employees. That provision was removed. In Massachusetts, the first state ever to pass an equal pay law back in 1945, the legislature included that provision in its new pay equity law, which takes effect July 1, 2018. The rationale for including such a provision is that if women are underpaid because they were discriminated against for their sex at their previous places of employment, then basing starting pay on what women were earning in the past perpetuates the discrimination. The Massachusetts law goes further than Connecticut’s law in other ways, too, but that is nothing new when it comes to employee protections and discrimination in employment laws.

We await the Connecticut Senate’s vote. We will keep you posted. As things stand, any changes to Connecticut’s current pay equity law pursuant to this bill would take effect October 1, 2017.

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