Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan this week signed legislation that strengthens the state’s equal pay law.
The bill increases transparency, shining a light on possible pay disparities by prohibiting businesses from penalizing employees who disclose or discuss their salary.
The measure also buttresses anti-discrimination statutes in the existing Equal Pay for Equal Work law by also barring discrimination on the basis of gender identity.
Civil, women’s and LGBT rights advocates praise Maryland’s efforts, which mirror efforts nationwide such as the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which makes it easier for workers to challenge unequal pay.
“All workers in Maryland and across the United States deserve to be paid fairly for their work, and this commonsense measure represents welcome progress on that front,” said Center for American Progress Senior Fellow Jocelyn Frye in a statement. “These provisions will provide a critical protection to vulnerable communities, particularly transgender individuals who face significant wage disparities and workplace discrimination, and foster more understanding and openness in pay practices.”
Despite advocacy effort at the federal, state and local level, the gender wage gap continues to be a pervasive problem in the United States, which activists say undermines the economic stability of women and their families.
In Maryland, for example, men who work full-time positions on average earn about $8,604 more annually than women on average. Put another way: women in Maryland are paid 85 cents for every dollar paid to men, according to an analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. Nationally, women are paid 79 cents for every dollar paid to men.
Among women of color the inequity is even worse. Among Maryland women who hold full-time, year-round jobs, African-American women are paid 69 cents, Latinas are paid 47 cents and Asian women are paid 82 cents for every dollar paid to White men. Nationally, African-American women earning 60 cents for every dollar earned by White men and Native-American women and Latinas earning only 59 cents and 55 cents, respectively.
“Equal pay is by no means just a women’s issue – it’s a family issue. It’s about parents who find themselves with less money for tuition or child care; couples who wind up with less to retire on; households where, when one breadwinner is paid less than she deserves, that’s the difference between affording the mortgage – or not; between keeping the heat on, or paying the doctor’s bills – or not,” said President Barack Obama at the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act. “In signing this bill today, I intend to send a clear message: That making our economy work means making sure it works for everyone. That there are no second class citizens in our workplaces, and that it’s not just unfair and illegal – but bad for business – to pay someone less because of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion or disability.”