As legislation designed to protect American women from unequal pay stalls at the federal level, states such as Vermont are filling in the gaps. Democratic Governor Peter Shumlin signed an equal pay bill into law this week, and New York governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing legislation that would protect women's economic opportunities in that state.
According to ThinkProgress, earlier this month, US Senate Republicans filibustered the Paycheck Fairness Act, which increases employer penalties for gender discrimination in pay, allows women to compare their salaries with male salaries, and provides protections for women who sue for equal pay.
Senator Dean Heller (R-Nevada) characterized the bill as a “war on free enterprise.” Congressional Republicans have also opposed the proposed Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which would for the first time federally bar employers from firing or forcing out pregnant employees.
Vermont's new equal pay law requires employers to provide specific rationales for differences in pay. It also bans retaliation against workers who talk about and compare their wages.
Cuomo's legislation protects pregnant workers and those who compare wages, and also expands abortion rights in a bid for economic fairness. Democrats in the state are framing abortion rights as an economic issue, saying women who seek but cannot procure an abortion are three times more likely to fall below the poverty line within two years.
In New York, 84 percent of those polled support equal pay legislation, which also supported by business groups; and 80 percent support expansion of the state’s abortion laws.