Would it not be wonderful if women in Arkansas were paid the same as men for doing the same job? According the National Partnership for Women and Families, women in Arkansas are paid 78 cents for every dollar paid to men, amounting to an annual wage gap of $8,755. The pay gap is larger for women of color. Asian, African American, and Latina women in Arkansas are paid 73 cents, 65 cents, and 53 cents respectively for every dollar white, non-Hispanic men earn.
State Representative Fred Love, D-Little Rock, proposed an equal pay bill, which will amend wage discrimination laws, provide pay equity for women, remedies for violations, and for other purposes. In short, HB 1021 aims to close the pay gap. “I believe that if a women is going to do a job and a man does the same job and they have the same qualifications then I think that a man and a women should get paid equally,” Love asserted.
The measure would not only establish a process for filing a complaint when an employer discriminates on the basis of gender with the Arkansas Department of Labor, it also allows the department to order employers to pay lost wages to the employee(s), if it finds that discrimination occurred. What is more, Love said the bill would prohibit employers from asking someone what they used to make.
Massachusetts’ pay equity bill includes a ban on asking for salary history and became law last summer. Furthermore, Philadelphia made a startling move, this year, barring employers from asking potential hires to provide their salary history. This bill will become law on May 23, 2017. Although this bill will help lessen wage inequity, the law will not come without legal challenge from their business community.
Depending on which side of the aisle you are on, HB 1021 may be viewed as a positive move towards closing the wage gap or a concerted effort to dictate how employers in Arkansas interact with possible new hires by telling companies how to run their business. Therefore, the jury is still out on this one. For example, it’s only a matter of time before the opposition challenges the bill as a violation of employer’s first amendment rights to inquire about the salary history of potential hires.
Will Arkansas’ equal pay law prohibit employers from requesting salary history or asking someone what they used to make? Only time will tell. As for now, HB 1021 has been referred to the Committee on Public Health, Welfare and Labor Committee – House.