Clarissa Horsfall holds a sign reading, “Equal Pay,” as she joins with others during A Day Without A Woman demonstration on March 8, 2017 in Miami, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
At a time when too many policies affecting women are going backward, I believe Colorado can continue to go forward. Today is Equal Pay Day, the day that marks how far into 2023 women must work on average to be paid what men were paid on average in 2022. It’s an opportunity to celebrate Colorado’s 2019 landmark Equal Pay for Equal Work legislation that is helping to close that distance. It’s also a time to advocate for updates to the law that will make workplaces even more fair and transparent.
The trailblazing 2019 law requires employers to include salary ranges and benefits with job postings, protects employees when talking about wages, and prohibits an employer from relying on a candidate’s earning history to determine a new wage rate. California, New York, Washington, and multiple cities followed our state’s leadership by passing similar laws. Now, an estimated 1 in 4 employees across the country is covered by pay transparency laws, which are key to closing persistent wage gaps for women, especially women of color.
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Women make up 46% of the Colorado workforce and are more likely to have a bachelor’s degree. However, per the U.S. Census Bureau, the average earnings for all women in Colorado who work full-time, year-round are still only 83% of men’s average earnings for full-time work. Over a woman’s career this gap becomes a gorge. For example, Black women typically make 67 cents for every dollar paid to white men. This gap amounts to a staggering loss of $907,680 over 40 years.
Michelle Siemer, a mom of three children living in Eagle County, was paid less than her peers and men she supervised while working for one of the state’s largest employers. Despite multiple performance rewards over 20 years with the same employer, her requests for raises and reclassification of her position were denied. She did not have access to an attorney to pursue justice.
Pay transparency benefits employers and workers by increasing productivity, employee retention, and profits.
Clearly, we must accelerate change to end these pay inequities for women. If passed, Senate Bill 23-105, Ensure Equal Pay for Equal Work, would make three key changes to strengthen the 2019 law.
First, without changing the two-year statute of limitations, it will extend the back pay period up to six years from three years. This would help workers, such as Michelle, recoup the difference between what they were paid and what they should have been paid.
Next, it would provide resources to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment to investigate pay inequities, enforce equal pay requirements, and offer mediation services to resolve claims of pay inequity. This potentially will allow employers to avoid costly lawsuits and for workers who cannot afford legal support to address claims.
Finally, based on feedback from employers across the state, it would update pay transparency requirements to differentiate between a job vacancy and changes to a person’s job. When an employee grows in their role through career development or progression, employers will no longer need to notify all employees. To clarify advancement pathways, SB-105 would require employers to be transparent about when there is a vacancy to be filled, who is selected to fill it, and how employees can pursue similar opportunities.
Pay transparency benefits employers and workers by increasing productivity, employee retention, and profits. According to the State Innovation Exchange, 77% of Coloradans are in favor of equal pay. In a recent survey from ResumeLab, 80% of respondents reported that they likely wouldn’t apply for a job if salary range information was lacking.
The movement is gaining speed across the U.S. Now is not the time for Colorado legislators to step back, especially when our state has been at the forefront of needed change for closing gender and racial pay gaps. SB-105 is the fair and the right thing to do for all Colorado women, their families, communities, and our economy.
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