It is estimated that women earn an average of 79 cents on the dollar for similar work performed by men.The goal of equal pay for equal work has been discussed for some time, but has not yet been achieved.This week, Connecticut passed a new law intended to combat the persistent problem of unequal pay in the workplace.The law, designated as Public Act 18-8, applies to all private and public employers in Connecticut and includes a number of protections, including banning employers from:
- prohibiting employees from discussing and disclosing their wages to other employees;
- prohibiting employees from inquiring about the wages of another employee;
- requiring employees to sign waivers of their rights under this law;
- inquiring about a prospective employee’s wage or salary history, unless it is voluntarily disclosed by a prospective employee;
- retaliating against an employee who exercises their rights under this law.
While no employer can prohibit an employee from inquiring about the wages paid to another employee, the statute states that no employer or employee is required to disclose the amount of wages paid to any employee in response to such inquiries.
This law also authorizes employees to bring lawsuits in court, within two years of any violation, and employers who violate this law can be ordered to pay compensatory damages, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees and costs.
This new law in Connecticut prohibiting employers from asking questions about an applicant’s prior salary history is consistent with other recent court decisions which have identified consideration of a job applicant’s prior salary history as a persistent source of ongoing wage disparities between men and women.In a recent decision, Rizo v. Yovino, a federal appeals court ruled that employers who pay men and women different salaries for performing similar work cannot justify the unequal pay based on the fact that the male employee earned a higher salary in a previous job.The Court in Rizo noted that an employee’s prior salary “is not a legitimate measure of work experience, ability, performance, or any other job-related quality.” More important, the Court explained, reliance on prior salary “may well operate to perpetuate the wage disparities prohibited under the [federal Equal Pay Act].”
In addition to this new law in Connecticut, other statutes allow employees to bring legal claims against their employers if they are not being paid equally because of their sex or gender, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the federal Equal Pay Act, as well as the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act and the Connecticut Equal Pay Act.