Blockbuster Year for State Legislative Action on Pay Equity

August 16, 2019


From the soccer field to the U.S. House of Representatives, 2019 brought increased focus on the gender pay gap and ways to close it. This is particularly true in statehouses across the nation. Here are the highlights from the state level:

Eleven States Enact Pay Equity Legislation

  • One of the most exciting developments was Alabama’s passage of a pay equity law. Until this year, the state was one of only two that did not have any state-level pay equity protections. In addition to requiring equal pay for employees of different races or sexes who perform equal work, the law also prohibits employers from retaliating against job applicants who refuse to provide their wage history.
  • Colorado became the first state to require employers to include a compensation range in every job posting. (California and Washington require this information to be made available upon request.) The bill also adds to the state’s existing law by prohibiting the use of salary history in hiring; clarifying the reasons employers can use to justify a pay difference; specifying that employees be equally compensated for substantially similar work; and requiring employers to keep records of wages and job descriptions to determine if there is a pattern of wage discrepancy.
  • Illinois, Maine, New Jersey, New York and Washington all updated their laws to include a ban on using salary history during the hiring process, a practice that can carry forward past pay inequities. New Hampshire would have joined the list, but Gov. Chris Sununu (R) vetoed the state’s bill to ban it.
  • Illinois also added a provision to its law narrowing the reasons employers can use to justify a pay difference, and New York expanded its law to ensure equal compensation for substantially similar work among protected classes beyond sex.
  • Nebraska ensured that workers can discuss their salaries without the fear of retaliation. And three additional states—Maryland, Nevada and Wyoming—raised penalties or increased damages for violations of their existing laws.

One State Awaits Further Action

In each of the last four years, California successfully strengthened its equal pay protections by enacting new laws. There is a possibility of making it five years in a row, as several bills are still pending in the 2019 legislative session. This includes one that would require employers to collect comprehensive pay data annually.

Update, October 15, 2019
After passing the California senate in May, Senate Bill 171, which would have required employers to collect comprehensive pay data annually, failed to make it through the state assembly.

Take It to the Next Level

AAUW members helped to achieve many of these successes, advocating throughout the legislative process to get these bills across the finish line. As a result, we saw a tremendous increase in activity in 2019. This is a significant uptick from 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 when six states passed laws designed to close the pay gap in each of those years.

If you are interested in working to close the gender pay gap in your state or city, check out AAUW’s state-specific policy guide roadmaps, read our latest research, explore AAUW’s advocacy tools, stay up to date on the latest happenings by signing up for the weekly newsletter Washington Update, and learn to negotiate your own salary through our free online Work Smart program. And if you are not already a member of AAUW’s Action Network, sign up here to reach your elected officials. Urge your friends and family to sign up, too! Together we can bring about change and close the gender pay gap once and for all.


Get the AAUW Policy Guide to Equal Pay in the States

Learn what’s on the books in your state and what additional protections are still needed.

Discover The Simple Truth About the Gender Pay Gap

This AAUW report digs into the details of the gender pay gap and provides recommendations on how policymakers, employers, and individuals can help close those gaps.

Get Paid What You’re Worth

Take AAUW Work Smart Online, a free one-hour salary negotiation course now!

By:   |   August 16, 2019


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