We're plenty aware (and tired) of the country's continuous pay gap, but we have a little bit of good news: Some states are making moves in passing new laws and legislation to finally level the paying field. Here are some recent wins for women:
Wyoming: Governor Matt Mead signed the 2014 Wyoming Equal Pay Day Proclamation just this past Tuesday, with support from the Wyoming Council for Women's Issues and the Wyoming Women's Foundation. This marked continuing efforts to create more opportunities for women and decrease the wage gap. The proclamation states that "fair pay for everyone enhances the economy, improves financial security and lessens pressure on the costs of retirement."
Ohio: State Rep. Connie Pillich, a candidate for Ohio treasurer, introduced an equal pay bill in February to the state's Republican-controlled House. House Bill 456, which clarifies that Ohio workers can file claims when they are victims of pay discrimination, has seen one hearing in the House Judiciary Committee since mid-March. Pillich pushed the effort again in April on Equal Pay Day—fingers crossed this one passes.
Rhode Island: The state that's smallest in size is doing some pretty big things to make compensation more fair for women. Rhode Island began offering paid leave at the start of this year, making workers eligible for up to four weeks of paid leave to care for a new child of sick family member. The benefit ranges from $72 to $752 per week based on earnings and applies to all private-sector employees and public employees. California was the first state to pass a paid leave law back in 2002, while New Jersey enacted their own in 2009.
Vermont: This state is a big player in creating fairer workplace practices. Some of its advocates attended the White House Summit on Working Families on Monday to discuss the struggles Americans face between job commitments and family obligations—a big issue for many working women. Vermont passed a new package last year demanding state contractors to determine pay using job-related reasons only. The bill, called An Act Relating to Equal Pay, also promises employees the right to request a more flexible schedule, a provision which finally takes into account working mothers.
Minnesota: In the beginning of May this state passed the Women's Economic Security Act, a nine-part law ensuring fairness for women in the workplace. The hefty legislation includes wage disclosure protection, better accommodations for pregnant women and nursing mothers, an expansion of new parent and sick leave, and even requires state government contractors to certify that they are complying with equal pay laws.
Massachusetts: Boston launched an initiative late last year called "100% Talent: The Boston Women's Compact." Nearly 50 business have signed a pledge agreeing to open their books and self-assess their data to see the wage gap they're creating. Then, the companies choose three strategies to put in place. Some city-suggested "interventions" include following gender-blind application processes, standardizing compensation, and offering or subsidizing child care. Every two years, businesses will anonymously share their wage data to be compiled for the city to measure overall progress—we can only hope the rest of the state will get on board.
California: This state's Democrats are constantly pushing to boost the minimum wage. As of July 1, California's minimum wage will go from $8 per hour to $9 per hour, and by 2016, it will be at $10. Since women make up two-thirds of minimum-wage workers in the U.S., any beneficial minimum wage legislation is certainly a welcome change.
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