Pennsylvania to examine efficacy of state, federal pay equity laws

Pennsylvania's Joint State Government Commission will study pay equity laws in the state as part of a requirement under a resolution passed by the state House of Representatives on May 6.

The resolution - H.R. 716, which was sponsored by Rep. Kathy Watson - directs the commission to study workplace disparity and related state and federal laws, specifically focusing on whether or not the laws are effective. Laws to be reviewed by the commission include the Equal Pay Law, Human Relations Act, federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act.

In its study of pay equity, the commission must make recommendations to legislators on additional policy and outreach initiatives, as well as legislation, if needed. The commission is also required to review training and funding processes to determine whether regulators have adequate resources to identify and pursue alleged violations.

"I'd like to thank my colleagues in the House who recognize that, based on average earnings comparing male and female workers with the same jobs, experience and credentials, women come up far short by only making 76 cents for every dollar a man does," Watson, who has led previous efforts in the House to conduct such a study, said.

According to census statistics released in 2013, women earned 76.5 percent of what men earned in 2012, even less than in 2011, when they earned 77 percent of what men earned that year. The National Women's Law Center said older women are also paid less than men of the same age in Social Security benefits.

"A woman with the same qualifications, experience and credentials as a man should be paid the same, and this study will determine if our laws are effective and what changes, if any, are needed to strengthen our policies and ensure pay equity laws are enforced in the Commonwealth," Watson said. "Pay equity simply means that wages must be based on job requirements like skill, effort, responsibility and working conditions without consideration of race, sex or ethnicity."