Monday night, Governor Jindal of Louisiana signed the Louisiana Equal Pay for Women Act into law, an important step forward toward achieving equal pay for the women of Louisiana.
The Act resembles the federal Equal Pay Act. It bans discriminatory pay based on sex, with exceptions for differences bases on seniority systems, merit systems, and systems that measure earnings by quantity or quality of production. It also provides an exception for differences based on “a bona fide factor other than sex,” with clear requirements that the employer must show that the factor is related to the job and that there are no alternative practices that would serve the same business purpose. By limiting the “bona fide factor other than sex” defense, the Louisiana Act avoids creating potential loopholes for employers to assert defenses so broad that they may themselves be based on sex (such as prior salary history or stronger salary negotiation skills).
The Act includes an anti-retaliation provision that protects state employees that assert their rights. It also contains a provision protecting employees who “inquir[e] about, disclos[e], compar[e], or otherwise discuss their wages or others’ wages.” This provision eliminates one of the key stumbling blocks employees face when asserting their rights.
Unfortunately, although the original bill covered all employers with 15 or more employees, the final bill that was enacted applies only to state employees.
Louisiana women are typically paid only 67cents for every dollar paid to men [PDF]. By enacting this law, Louisiana took a crucial step forward toward ensuring women receive equal pay. We hope there will be more to come.