Delaware’s Got Its Stuff Together For Women and Families
Delaware’s got its stuff together. It was the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Solid. It produced a Vice President who, as a Senator, introduced the Violence Against Women Act. Awesome. It passed a bipartisan Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. Wonderful. And yesterday, its State House Labor Committee unanimously passed out of committee three bills—HB 314, HB 316, and HB 317— that work together to provide critical protections against discrimination and exploitative labor practices that have been keeping women from entering, remaining, and being treated fairly in the workforce. Bravo.
Promoting Pay Transparency
While Delaware prohibits pay discrimination, employer policies and practices that prohibit employees from disclosing their wages have allowed pay discrimination to go undetected and the state’s gender wage gap to persist. HB 314 makes it unlawful for employers to prohibit or retaliate against employees for disclosing their salary to their co-workers. When workers are able to discover pay disparities without fear of losing their jobs, they can go to their employers and attempt to address any disparities internally, avoiding litigation. This bill is crucial in making sure that women will be paid fairly and will not be shortchanged simply because of their gender.
Protecting Women’s Personal Health Care Decisions
A woman’s decision to have an abortion, use birth control, or get pregnant through the use of in vitro fertilization is personal and should never impact her job security. Unfortunately, employees across the country are being punished, threatened, or fired for their personal health care decisions. HB 316 specifically prohibits employers from taking adverse actions against an employee for 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 of repercussion in the workplace.
Prohibiting Family Responsibility Discrimination
Individuals who have primary responsibilities for family caregiving—and mothers in particular—often face discrimination at work. For example, an employer may refuse to hire a job applicant after asking about her family caregiving responsibilities; demote a mother after she returns from maternity leave; or pass a working parent over for a promotion based on the stereotype that parents are less reliable. These discriminatory decisions are often based on gender stereotypes about what women do or should do, and how that impacts their ability to succeed at work. HB 317 prohibits discrimination in employment based on an individual’s caregiving responsibilities.
HB 314, 316, and 317 Work Together to Help Women
Each of these bills alone is an important step forward for Delaware women. But what makes them particularly great is that these three bills work together as part of an on-going effort by Delaware to advance a broad, integrated women’s economic security agenda. This agenda recognizes what women already know—our lives are interconnected. Health care, education, family, and job security are all inextricably tied together. By protecting women in the workplace, HB 314, 316, and 317 are essential to protecting these interconnections and helping women to achieve economic security. Fantastic.