As fathers, husbands, and brothers, it has always been our hope that our wives, daughters, daughters-in-law, and sisters would be judged by their merits, talents, and experience in the workplace. It's something that should be reflected in their pay - equal pay for equal work.
According to the latest Census Bureau data, substantial progress has been made to narrow the pay gap in the last 35 years. Women's wages are now considerably closer to men's. However, according to the 2013 Census data, woman statewide still averaged 77 cents for every dollar paid to men.
Earlier this month, the Senate advanced a bill, with a bipartisan vote, that makes it the largest update to our equal-pay law to pass in the Senate in almost 40 years. Overall, the bill promotes pay transparency in the hopes of bridging the gender gap and balances the needs of workers and employers with regard to pay issues. Most importantly, the bill provides employees with the tools they need to act upon gender-based pay disparity, using the protections Pennsylvania affords them through the Equal Pay Law.
The bill increases transparency by forbidding workplace policies that prevent employees from discussing salaries. If employees can talk about salaries, then they can search out if they are being discriminated against. The bill also prohibits retaliation against employees who ask about or discuss wages paid to coworkers. Empowering employees to discuss salaries with their coworkers without fear of retaliation shines a spotlight on the issue and safeguards equal pay for equal work.
This bill does not set wages, but rather strengthens the legal parameters that employees of the same sex have to be paid equally for substantially the same work and provides tools to employees to ensure that if they are being discriminated against, they can seek relief under the law. By providing for greater "pay transparency" this legislation will ensure that employees are not discriminated against in the workplace.
We are disappointed that some have chosen to portray the Senate action as an attack on Philadelphia as opposed to what it is - an attack on pay disparity in all four corners of our commonwealth. Whether you live in State College, Delaware County, Erie, Pittsburgh, Bradford, or Philadelphia, we want to provide protections for pay equity for all women. This is a statewide issue, and a statewide result is warranted.
City Council signaled the importance of the issue of pay equity by passing an ordinance to address the issue within Philadelphia. Prohibiting employers from asking a job applicant for salary history assists new hires, but studies show those types of action do not address existing pay equity issues.
The Senate plan will accomplish lasting pay-equity protections for current and future employees, protect from discrimination and retaliation, and promote pay transparency across the commonwealth, including Philadelphia.
Some issues are so important that it is in the best interests of all Pennsylvanians for the state Legislature to act. Pay equity is one of them. We encourage those who believe strongly in this issue to join us as we work with the House to deliver a bill to Gov. Wolf's desk.
State Sen. Tom McGarrigle (R., Chester, Delaware) represents the 26th District. @McGarrigle26 Tmcgarrigle@pasen.gov