Congratulations to Delaware for Protecting Women’s Economic Security!

Lily Ledbetter speaking at the signing of Delaware's three new bills that will improve women's economic security.
Lilly Ledbetter speaking at the signing of Delaware’s three new bills that will improve women’s economic security.

Yesterday, Delaware’s Governor Jack Markell signed three important new bills into law—HB 314, HB 316, and HB 317. These laws—which promote pay transparency and protect women from discrimination because of their reproductive health decision or because they have to care for a child or sick loved one—will help women enter, remain, and be treated fairly in the workplace. As Lilly Ledbetter said at yesterday’s bill signing, this “will make an incredible difference in the lives of Delaware women and their families.” Way to go Delaware!

Promoting Pay Transparency

Under HB 314 bosses will no longer be allowed to prohibit employees from talking about their salaries or retaliate against employees who talk about their salaries with their coworkers.  As Lilly Ledbetter well knows, policies and practices that prohibit employees from disclosing their wages can allow pay discrimination to go undetected for years, even decades. This affects not just current wages but also retirement benefits, which can have a devastating effect on the economic security of women and their families.

Protecting Women’s Personal Health Care Decisions

HB 316  prohibits employers from taking adverse actions against employees because of their reproductive health decisions. This means that women can’t be fired because they have made personal health decisions such as having had an abortion, used birth control, or become pregnant through in vitro fertilization or when they weren’t married. This may seem like common sense, but bosses across the country have punished, threatened, and even fired their employees because of their reproductive health decisions.  Deciding whether and when to have children is a decision of enormous economic consequence and women must be able to make that decision without fear they could lose their job.

Prohibiting Family Responsibility Discrimination

NWLC staff members Andrea Johnson and Melanie Ross Levin with Lily Ledbetter at Delaware's bill signing.
NWLC staff members Andrea Johnson and Melanie Ross Levin with Lilly Ledbetter at Delaware’s bill signing.

Anyone who has to care for family member—and mothers in particular—can face discrimination at work. A boss may refuse to hire someone after asking about family caregiving responsibilities or pass a working parent over for a promotion. New mothers may be demoted after returning from maternity leave—all because of stereotypes that parents, and especially mothers, are less reliable. HB 317 will prohibit bosses from firing, demoting, refusing to hire, or taking other discriminatory actions against someone because they have caregiving responsibilities. This will make it easier for anyone who has to care for a family member to enter and stay in the workforce.

HB 314, 316, and 317 Work to Protect Women and Their Families

We would be celebrating if just one of these bills had become law. But together these three are a huge step that will help Delaware advance a broad, integrated  economic agenda to supports women and their families. This agenda recognizes what women already know—our lives are interconnected. Health care, education, family, and job security are all inextricably tied together. Combined, these three workplace protections take into account these interconnections and will help women achieve economic security. And that is something to celebrate!