Bill promotes pay transparency to bridge gender gap

As fathers, husbands and brothers, it has always been our hope that our wives, daughters, daughters-in-law and sisters would be judged by their merits, talents and experience in the workplace. It’s something that should be reflected in their pay — equal pay for equal work.

According to the latest Census Bureau data, substantial progress has been made to narrow the pay gap in the past 35 years. Women’s wages are now considerably closer to men’s. However, according to the 2013 Census data, woman statewide still averaged 77 cents for every dollar paid to men.

Earlier this month, the Senate advanced a bill, with a bipartisan vote, which makes the largest update to our equal pay law to pass in the Senate in almost 40 years. Overall, the bill promotes pay transparency in the hopes of bridging the gender gap and balances the needs of workers and employers with regard to pay issues. Most importantly, the bill provides employees with the tools they need to act upon gender-based pay disparity, utilizing the protections Pennsylvania affords them through the Equal Pay Law.

The bill increases transparency by forbidding workplace policies that prevent employees from discussing salaries. If employees can talk about salaries, then they can search out if in fact they are being discriminated against. The bill also prohibits retaliation against employees who ask about or discuss wages paid to co-workers. Empowering employees to discuss salaries with their co-workers without fear of retaliation shines a spotlight on salaries, safeguarding equal pay for equal work.

This bill does not set wages but rather strengthens the parameters currently in law that employees of the same sex have to be paid equal for substantially the same work and provides tools to employees to ensure that if they are being discriminated against, they can seek relief under the law. By providing for greater “pay transparency” this legislation will ensure that employees are not discriminated in the work place.

The Senate action tackles pay disparity in all four corners of our commonwealth. Whether you live in State College, Delaware County, Erie, Pittsburgh, Bradford or Philadelphia, we want to provide protections for pay equity for all women. The Senate plan will accomplish lasting pay equity protections for current and future employees, protect from discrimination, retaliation and promote pay transparency

There are issues that are so important to Pennsylvanians that it is in the best interests of our residents for the state legislature to act. Pay equity is one of them. We encourage those who believe strongly in pay equity to join us as we work with the state House to deliver a pay equity bill to the governor’s desk.

Sen. Tom McGarrigle (Tmcgarrigle@pasen.gov or on Twitter at @McGarrigle26) represents the 26th District, which includes parts of Chester and Delaware counties. He was the sponsor of the pay equity bill. Sen. Jake Corman (jcorman@pasen.gov or on Twitter @JakeCorman) is the Majority Leader of the Senate and represents the 34th District, which includes Centre, Mifflin and Juniata counties and part of Huntingdon County.