Equal Pay for Equal Work in Maryland

Maryland State Sen. Susan Lee with Gov. Larry Hogan and other Maryland legislators at the signing of the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act in May 2016. State Sen. Susan Lee (center, wearing blue) with Gov. Larry Hogan (center, seated) and Maryland legislators at the signing of the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act.

On average, women in America earn about 79 cents for every dollar a man makes. In Maryland, women make about 84.3 cents for every dollar a man makes, on average. Women of color face a racial wage gap on top of the gender gap. Compared to white non-Hispanic men, Asian-American women make about 82.2 cents on the dollar, African-American women 69 cents, and Latinas 47.1 cents.

While Maryland fares better than many other states, any gap is unacceptable. Because many women are increasingly the primary or co-breadwinner for their families, this means they are losing millions of dollars each year that could be spent on food, housing, education and other essentials.

Instead of waiting for Congress to pass national legislation, Maryland has moved forward in passing the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, which significantly updates and strengthens our state’s existing pay equity law.

I was proud to help spearhead the passage of the law together with my Maryland General Assembly colleagues, and women, family, labor and business leaders throughout the state. It was signed by Gov. Larry Hogan in May.

This new law increases transparency in the workplace by allowing employees to ask about, discuss, or request information about wages without fear of retaliation or being fired and bans employers from forcing their workers to sign waivers regarding wage discussions or information requests. Some of the greatest barriers to women being able to better negotiate and secure equal pay are the result of many companies discouraging or outright banning employees from discussing or asking about their wages.  This blanket of secrecy has made it almost impossible for women to know if they are being underpaid for comparable work done by their male counterparts or to seek relief under federal, state, or local laws.

In addressing the barriers women often face in being promoted to nontraditional, higher paying jobs, this law also bans “mommy tracking” where employers provide less favorable employment opportunities by directing or assigning less favorable career tracks; failing to provide information on promotion or advancement opportunities; or limiting or depriving an employee of employment opportunities that would be otherwise available, but for an employee’s sex or gender identity.

We in Maryland are proud of our history of passing progressive legislation to uplift and empower all hardworking people. Our Equal Pay for Equal Work law is about fundamental fairness and will help close discriminatory wage gaps; enable women to support themselves and their families; strengthen our middle class by boosting the local economy; and ensure workplaces promote transparency, fairness, merit and productivity.

Susan C. Lee is a Maryland state senator.

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If it were only that simple! If the world of work was govern by HR there would be far less disgruntled and dissatisfied employees. But unfortunately that is not how it works.

HR doesn't have complete autonomy and that kind of discretionary authority! Most times the HR signature only indicates it has been reviewed by HR - not approved.
Much like when an employee signs on disciplinary actions or poor performance evaluations; the employee isn't necessarily agreeing with the actions and contents. It only documents that the employee received the information.

Yours truly,

I'm from Quebec, Canada, and I'm very happy to see that you now have the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act. I don't know if you're the 1st state to have it, but Congratulations, you will make a lot of women happy. We got that law in 2001, and it made a lot of people happy.

Nicole Theoret
Longueuil, Quebec

Congratulations to Maryland with the new equal pay laws; however I do not see how this will increase a woman's wage in real time, other than perhaps know the goring rate for a job, which should readily be available from the DOL via state wage and benefit surveys. What are the consequences for violating the new protections? This law does not stop discrimination any more than our Civil Rights laws - until punished and prompted to do so by agency fines and penalties against employers. It still doesn't compel employers to pay women workers the same wages paid to men for the same job - more specifically the same work..
The problem sometimes lies in the agencies assigned to enforce the laws already in place; agencies like the OFCCP and the EEOC have not been effective with the systemic problem across the country affecting millions of women and therefore, their children and family.
On the point that this law now permits open dialogue about wages, employees are already protected under federal law, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), to discuss their wages which permits employees to speak about their workplace conditions to include wages, benefits, management and so forth. But like the other laws in place, unless enforced, employers still fire employees for speaking about wages, and they can within the law if employees are speaking about wages during work periods. What they discuss about their working conditions on their own time to include social media is a protected activity under the NLRA.

Equal pay will remain a problem until more women are in management and other influential positions, whereas they can invoke higher wages for women within their businesses and communities.

But, hats off for bringing more visibility to the issue within the state of Maryland and to those that govern other states.

Congratulations to Maryland for wasting time on a useless law. Employees will not talk about how much they make, no matter how many laws say you can!

How about making a law that makes the HR person responsible and liable for unequal pay. Every company that has an HR dept, HR is required to sign off on any compensation changes. If the HR person can be personally held responsible for violating the law, maybe they will be more diligent in making sure people are paid correctly. You also need to pass laws giving the HR professional protection in trying to make sure employees are paid fairly. In the leadbetter case, Leadbetter found out she was getting screwed because some one left her a note. that note had to come from an HR person, they would be the only person with that info. So despite all of the HR people at firestone, many of them having professional certification, and they all knew the pay practice was illegal, they could not do any thing. It what is amazing is 90% of HR professionals are women, and they all know their company is cheating their fellow women and there is nothing they can do about it.

The NLRA and subsequent DOL Administrative decisions already provide protections for open dialogue. I guess the intent of this new legislation is to allow similar law suits to be heard by state courts and not just federal. If this is the totality of the legislation, it is smoke and mirrors providing no benefit to anyone.

I do find it interesting how the law and this article's heading and opening paragraph are careful with the terms Equal Pay for Equal Work. Again, something that is clearly within the FLSA and has been consistently supported but not expanded by the Supreme Court.

However, the writer sneaks in a more PC term of "underpaid for comparable work". Very different concept and never supported by the Supreme Court - and rightfully should not.

Equal assess and participation is the key to bringing the genders together. I have a good friend, a Dean of a School of Engineering. He is doing what is needed and what the naysayers will not do - get young women interested in the more highly paid professions. This is just one of our needed positive steps and not spending millions on finger pointing, marketing, socialization programs and law suits. Just my two cents.

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