Equal Pay Day marks the day each year that the average American woman would have to work until to make up for the gap between her earnings and the earnings of a white man from the previous year.
Over a 40-year career, the gender pay gap means that American women, on average, $500,000 compared to their male counterparts. The impact of this inequity for women of color, in particular, is significantly worse. For black women, those lost wages increase to $700,000 and to $800,000 for Latina women, according to a statement from the Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network.
On April 2, the Ohio House Democrats unveiled three bills which comprise a legislative strategy to narrow and ultimately eliminate the gender pay gap in the State of Ohio; the Ohio Equal Pay Act (its fifth introduction), a statewide paid family leave policy, and a bill to create an anonymous system for Ohio workers to report wage discrimination and theft.
The Ohio Equal Pay Act, sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) and Rep. Randi Clites (D-Ravenna), prohibits gag orders on employees that keep them from talking about their salaries with one another and requires the state’s private-sector vendors to obtain an Equal Pay Certificate, certifying that women at those companies are given equal opportunity for career advancement. The bill also requires state government entities to evaluate employees’ pay scales to ensure compensation is based on skills, responsibilities and working conditions across job categories.
The persistent, pervasive wage gap remains a problem among working women in Ohio. Whether in low or high wage jobs, women experience wage gaps in nearly every sector of work, even when accounting for variables like education level and work experience #EqualPayDay #OhioEqualPayAct pic.twitter.com/YCi3GABKEM
— Women’s Public Policy Network (@OhioWPPN) April 2, 2019
“It is long past time to empower women in the workplace to be what they are—equal,” said Rep. Clites. “Closing the gap ensures better lives, brighter futures and the opportunity for Ohio women and families to get ahead and save for the future.”
The wage gap has real economic consequences, not only for women but for the State of Ohio as a whole.
“Wage inequality means that women have less to spend on themselves and their families, less to invest and save for the future, and less to put back into businesses and the local economy,” said Erin Ryan, Managing Director of the Ohio Women’s Public Policy Network.
The second bill discussed at the Tuesday press conference is a paid family leave policy sponsored by Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) and Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus). House Bill 91 received its first hearing last week on March 26. The bill would create up to 12 weeks of paid parental, family, and personal medical leave insurance benefits for Ohio workers during a 12-month period. The insurance program would apply to individuals who must take a leave of absence from work to address a serious health condition, to care for a family member, or to bond with a new child.
Finally, Rep. Erica C. Crawley said she will soon jointly sponsor a bill requiring the Ohio Civil Rights Commission to establish a system allowing workers to anonymously report wage discrimination by an employer. Such complaints could be submitted by phone or online. A 2018 study by the Economic Policy Institute estimated that Ohio workers lose 600 million dollars each year to wage theft. Meanwhile, the state’s capacity to investigate these infractions is limited to follow-up on complaints by a total of six employees who comprise the Ohio Department of Commerce’s Wage And Hour Enforcement unit.
“If the current pace of change continues at the same rate as it has in the United States since 1960, men and women will not reach gender pay parity until the year 2059,” said Ryan. “And that is far too long for women and their families to wait.”