JEFFERSON CITY — State Sen. Gina Walsh, D-Bellefontaine Neighbors, today filed Equal Pay Act legislation in order to expand current state laws and make them more easily enforceable. Senate Bill 350 prohibits an employer from paying an employee less wages than those paid to employees of the opposite gender for the same work performed under similar working conditions. It also states employers cannot reduce wages in order to comply.
“Although Missouri has had equal pay laws on the books since 1963, new data released just this month confirms what we already know — that women in Missouri are still earning less money than their male counterparts for the same work,” said Sen. Walsh. “You would think after 50 years, we would have made more progress when it comes to pay equity, yet Missouri women continue to earn 71 cents for every dollar a man makes.”
Earlier this month, the Women’s Foundation released its 2016 report on The Status of Women in Missouri. Prepared by the University of Missouri Institute of Public Policy, the report found that from 2010-2014, when examining all workers, women made just 71 cents for every dollar a man made. When isolating full-time, year-round workers, women made 78 cents for every dollar a man earned. In 2015, in Missouri, the median annual income for women full-time workers was $35,759, while male full-time workers earned $45,897.
“As a member of a labor union, I have never been impacted by the effects of unequal pay. I have always made a wage equal to that of my male colleagues who do the same job,” added Walsh. “Unfortunately, my experience is not the experience of most women in the workforce. Senate Bill 350 will help those Missouri women who make less than their male colleagues while doing the same work.”
Current state law defines wages as any compensation for labor measured by time, piece or otherwise. Senate Bill 350 redefines wages to include all compensation and specifically includes bonuses, stock options, awards or tips, nonmonetary compensation and any compensation that has economic value to an employee. Additionally, the measure creates legal remedies for violations of the Act and allows employees to recover actual and compensatory damages for unlawful gender-based pay practices.
“My legislation will strengthen our state laws by further clarifying exactly what equal pay for equal work means and giving those who are affected by unlawful gender-based pay practices greater protections. It is well past time for everyone to fully accept that pay equity is the law of the land,” Walsh said.