Assembly considers one step toward gender equity in pay

A couple of bills that would help make women’s pay more equal to men’s are slogging through the final weeks of the General Assembly session. Though a Senate hearing on these bills has been postponed or canceled, the effort continues. Progressive Maryland testified in favor of the bills earlier in the session.

TESTIMONY IN SUPPORT OF MARYLAND SB 404: EQUAL PAY- JOB ANNOUNCEMENT AND SALARY HISTORY INFORMATION DISCLOSURES

A pair of bills that would help make women’s pay more equal to men’s are slogging through the final weeks of the General Assembly session. Though a Senate hearing on this bill has been postponed or canceled, the effort continues. Progressive Maryland testified in favor of the bills earlier in the session and that testimony is printed here for the first time. The Fiscal Note contains a summary of the bill in (mostly) non-bill language.

FROM:        Progressive Maryland

Thank you for the opportunity to testify on SB 404. Progressive Maryland is a grassroots, nonprofit organization of more than 100,000 members and supporters who live in nearly every legislative district in the state. In addition, there are 18 affiliated religious, community and labor organizations that stand behind our work. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families in Maryland. Please note our strong support for this bill.

 SB 404 sets out to strengthen Maryland’s current Equal Pay for Equal Work Act. As it stands today, women in Maryland currently earn an average of 86 cents for every dollar a man earns in the state. This gap is not explained by any disparity in education, skill levels, or differences in occupation. Unfortunately, the gap between the average earnings of men and women in our state is more accurately explained by wage discrimination. Our current laws which seek to address this problem need to be strengthened.

 When women earn more it is a benefit for the Maryland economy. If the wage gap were eliminated, women in Maryland would have more money to spend on food for their households, gas for their cars, and clothing for themselves and their families. This is important because women are increasingly the bread-winners for their households. Ending wage discrimination not only improves the lives of women themselves, but also stabilizes families. When women earn more it has been shown to decrease poverty overall. Therefore improving the lives of women not only improves their lives, but it also strengthens the economy as a whole.

 This bill achieves its goal of ending wage discrimination by strengthening our current law. The bill strengthens our equal pay law by taking a couple of important steps that would empower women to negotiate for higher salaries. First, it mandates that employers disclose a minimum salary in their job announcements, which means that all applicants would enter into salary negotiations from the same starting point. Second, the legislation also prohibits employers from inquiring about an applicant’s prior salary history. This is crucial for women, especially those who work in fields typically dominated by women, such as teaching, which often have lower average salaries than those dominated by men. Prohibiting prospective employers from asking about salary history prevents discrimination a woman faced in her previous position from following her throughout her career. These provisions make our current law stronger by giving our state a greater ability to level the playing field for women at work. Leveling this playing field strengthens our state’s middle class and strengthens our economy.

 We therefore urge a favorable report on SB 404.