The Louisiana State Senate passed an equal pay protection bill aimed at closing the gender gap. Louisiana is ranked 49th in the U.S. regarding fair pay for the same work. The bill is moving to the Louisiana House, where it will likely encounter opposition.
Senate Bill 219 passed 21-16. Of the 16 ‘no’ votes, 15 came from Republicans. One Republican to support it, Sen. Dan Claitor, said “it might be strange to some that I'm rising in support of this bill." He noted the state’s obligation to ban pay discrimination based on gender and other reasons. He said the bill "is follow(ing) through on that promise."
The senators opposing the bill raised concerns that it would open the door to lawsuits against businesses, and "put one more nail in the coffin," of businesses. Objecting senators suggested that better enforcement of the already existing federal and state laws would remedy the problem.
Sen. Jack Donahue worried the law could allow an electrician to sue a company if he or she didn't receive the same pay as a plumber. The bill's sponsor countered that the bill requires the work to be “the same” for discrimination to be charged. It allows for pay differences based on credentials, experience and productivity.
A Louisiana Equal Pay for Women Act was passed in 2013, but only extended to full-time state employees. The new bill expands protections to local governments and private businesses with more than 50 employees, reports The Times-Picayune.
A letter circulated before the vote by Julie Schwam-Harris of the New Orleans Independent Women's Organization stated that women in public employment make 80 to 90 cents on the dollar compared to men, and 61 cents on the dollar in private employment. In three Louisiana parishes, she said the ratio ranges from 67 cents to 45. According to the letter, women account for half of the workforce and almost 40 percent of heads of households.
“Wage discrimination is real," Sen. Karen Carter Peterson said, "(Let's) make sure we are living in 2015, not 1963."
The bill would also introduce a process for filing complaints and allow victims to claim whether or not the discrimination was intentional, reports The New Orleans Advocate. It also allows employers and employees to challenge a court’s determination.
The bill is now moving to the house, where two equal pay measures were struck down in April, reports the Shreveport Times.
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