Alabama recently joined 48 other states by passing a law banning wage discrimination. On June 11, Governor Kay Ivey signed HB 225, known as the Clarke Figures Equal Pay Act, into law. The Act’s effective date is August 1. In passing the new law, Alabama now joins over a dozen other states which prohibit employers from discriminating against applicants based on their pay history. The idea behind such prohibition is that, in doing so, employers perpetuate the wage gap among men and women by locking women into unfair, discriminatory pay levels.
An Illinois proposal that would have prevented employers from requiring applicants to disclose their prior wages or salary during the hiring process unexpectedly failed during the Illinois General Assembly veto session on November 9. This comes as a surprise, as earlier this year, the proposed amendments and expansion to the Illinois Equal Pay Act passed through the House and the Senate with strong majorities. Don’t get fooled into thinking we’ve seen the last of it, however, as signs point to a renewed attempt to pass similar legislation in the near future.
It is no secret that pay inequity has plagued the United States and abroad for as long as women have been in the workforce. Although the U.S. and other countries have had laws on the books, in many cases for decades, prohibiting discrimination against women with respect to pay, the issue remains. On average, women still make 20 percent less than men performing the same work. Pay inequity has resulted in a growing number of lawsuits against employers on a worldwide basis, often leading to sky-high defense costs, and hefty damage awards.
No one denies the pay gap between men and women exists. However, there is much debate as to how best to close that gap. In the United Kingdom (UK), legislators are employing a “naming and shaming” strategy to try to use to use the power of public accountability to push employers toward greater pay equity.
Google, Inc. (“Google”) is the latest high profile employer in an onslaught of class actions by female employees alleging systemic discrimination in pay against women. Coupled with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program’s (“OFCCP”) investigation into Google’s pay practices and the recent media firestorm over a memo by a disgruntled male (now former) employee, this class action lawsuit has brought Google’s compensation practices into the spotlight.