While Congress struggles to pass legislation to create fair, safe, and dignified workplaces for all, states are taking up the charge and moving legislation to create jobs where women are paid equally for comparable work and can work free from sexual harassment.
Maryland: Salary History and Minimum Wage
Maryland is currently considering an equal pay bill (SB0738 / HB0634) that would prohibit employers from relying on a job applicant’s salary history to set pay and would require an employer to give a job applicant the salary range for a position upon request. Using salary history to set an applicant’s pay keeps women’s wages low and perpetuates wage gaps throughout a woman’s career, her workplace, and the economy. On February 19, our Workplace Justice Legal Fellow Sarah David Heydemann testified at the House hearing on this bill stressing the importance of equal pay to women, our families, and our communities. Our Senior Counsel for State Policy, Andrea Johnson, will be testifying at the Senate hearing on March 7th. Seven states have now passed this simple, common sense legislation and it is time that Maryland does the same. #NoSalaryHistoryMD!
In addition to tackling the salary history problem, Maryland has the opportunity to make a significant impact on the gender wage gap by raising the minimum wage. The Maryland legislature is currently considering a bill (SB0280 / HB0166) to gradually raise the minimum wage from the current $10.10 per hour to $15 per hour. Our Director of Job Quality, Julie Vogtman, and Workplace Justice Legal Fellow Sarah David Heydemann, joined dozens of workers and advocates who testified at the hearings in support of this critically needed increase in the minimum wage and urged the legislature to ensure that tipped workers are entitled to the same minimum wage as all working people in Maryland, before tips.
New York: #MeToo
Soon after the MeToo Movement went viral in 2017, Governor Cuomo signed several important changes into New York’s sexual harassment law. This legislation was an important first step; but any future reforms must extend beyond only sexual harassment, and address the multiple, intersecting forms of workplace harassment and discrimination women face. Additional reforms also must be informed by public hearings, which the New York General Assembly held for the first time on February 13, 2019, thanks to efforts of Seven brave survivors with their own MeToo stories from their time working in the state capitol.
These survivors created a “Sexual Harassment Working Group” to push for a public hearing and improvements to New York’s law. After almost a year of the Working Group advocating for survivors’ experiences to be centered in the creation of anti-harassment legislation, the New York General Assembly hosted their first public hearing on sexual harassment in the workplace in 30 years. The hearing lasted for 11 hours and time unfortunately ran out to hear from many of the advocates who had traveled to Albany to testify, including our Senior Counsel for State Policy, Andrea Johnson. The hearing was an important first step and clearly demonstrated that more public hearings are needed to hear from all relevant stakeholders.
Oregon: #MeToo in the Workplace
The Oregon legislature is currently considering SB 726, important #MeToo legislation, which includes multiple measures to address all forms of workplace harassment and discrimination. Notably, the bill would extend the statute of limitations for harassment and discrimination claims from one to seven years, limit the use of abusive nondisclosure agreements and no rehire clauses in employment contracts and settlement agreements, and enables survivors to hold corporate executives individually liable giving executives greater incentive to proactively create and maintain workplaces free of harassment. Our Workplace Justice fellow, Sarah David Heydemann, testified at the Senate hearing in support of SB 726. If passed, Oregon will join the many states who are fighting to strengthen protections against sexual harassment in #20Statesby2020.
These are only a few of the states pushing for just and safe workplaces this session. Legislators are fighting for women’s economic security in states from South Carolina to Rhode Island and Georgia to Colorado. We will keep you updated as state sessions progress!