Daily Court Reporter - News Lawmaker proposes bill designed to fight wage discrimination
Lawmaker proposes bill designed to fight wage discrimination
KEITH ARNOLD, Daily Reporter Staff Writer
A Democrat senator made use of the observance of the recent Black Women's Equal Pay Day to reintroduce the Fair and Acceptable Income Required, or FAIR, Act to the upper house of the Ohio Legislature.
Sen. Charleta Tavares, D-Columbus, introduced Senate Bill 174, a facsimile of Senate Bill 218 forwarded during the 131st General Assembly, to bolster the state's laws against wage discrimination.
Her comments upon introduction of the measure, however, reflected the day's observance more than the provisions of the bill. Most notably, pay discrimination on the basis of sex already is forbidden.
"While the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 improved some laws that govern pay discrimination, more must be done to close the wage gap and increase the economic security of women," Tavares said. "Fair pay would help close the wage gap and increase women's economic security."
In addition to sex, current law provides that an employer may not base differences in pay on race, color, religion, age, national origin, or ancestry.
The lawmaker said the laws on the books have proven "far from effective" in closing the wage gap between men and women in Ohio.
"It is shameful that in this day and age women in Ohio make only 78 cents for every dollar made by a man," she said. "Without question, equal work deserves equal pay.
"At a time when women are increasingly responsible for the economic security of their families, it is absolutely critical to ensure that they earn a wage commensurate with their work - and on par with a man's."
Tavares cited the National Partnership for Women & Families and refuted evidence to the contrary that any gap between the sexes is a result of personal choices, circumstances of a specific industry and education level.
She said the gap is even greater for women of color, with black Ohio women being paid 66 cents to every dollar paid to white men.
SB 174 would require employers to substantiate challenged pay differences - for causes other than seniority, merit, quantity or quality of employee production or as long as the difference is consistent with business necessity - with legitimate job-related or skill-based reasons.
In addition to prohibiting discrimination on the basis of an employee's race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age and ancestry, the bill adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the prohibition.
Specifically, SB 174 identifies three distinct sexual orientations - heterosexuality, homosexuality and bisexuality - and defines gender identity as "an individual's self-perception, or perception of that person by another, of the individual's identity as male or female as realized through the person's appearance, behavior, or physical characteristics, regardless of whether such appearance, behavior, or physical characteristics are in accord with or opposed to the person's physical anatomy, chromosomal sex, or sex at birth."
Employers would be prohibited from discriminating against an employee who makes a complaint, institutes or testifies in any proceeding relating to wage discrimination, according to the bill.
Additionally, no employer shall discriminate against an employee for inquiring about, discussing, or disclosing the wages of the employee or another employee in response to a complaint or charge, or in furtherance of a discrimination investigation, proceeding, hearing, or action, or an investigation conducted by the employer.
SB 174 stipulates that any such person discriminated against for such behavior may sue in any court of competent jurisdiction to recover damages, injunctive relief or any other appropriate relief.
A court or jury may award punitive or exemplary damages in such cases to deter future violations, the bill detailed.
A pair of senators join Tavares to cosponsor the bill, which awaits committee referral at the conclusion of summer recess.
Date Published: August 30, 2017