Updated: Jan 9
Pay inequity remains a real and persistent problem that impacts women and their families and continues to be a major barrier to economic security. In Colorado, women are the primary or co-breadwinners in three-quarters of families, yet women earn twenty percent less than men on average.
Increased efforts to close the pay gap are necessary to achieve pay equity in the near future. At the current rate since 1960, Colorado’s gender wage gap will not close for another thirty-eight years. Consequently, the Colorado Women’s Bar Association prioritized equal pay as a key policy initiative for the organization and has been working to speed-up progress through a robust legislative measure, the Equal Pay For Equal Work Act.
The Equal Pay For Equal Work Act, SB19-085, implements measures to prevent pay disparities. Earlier this year, Senators Jessie Danielson and Brittany Pettersen, along with Representatives Janet Buckner and Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez, sponsored the bill. On April 4, 2019, the bill was introduced in the House and assigned to the Business Affairs and Labor Committee, which will hold a hearing this Wednesday, April 17, 2019.
The Act has two key elements: common-sense prevention and transparency measures and the ability for women to directly challenge pay disparities.
More specifically, employers will be required to advertise promotion opportunities to all current employees and to disclose proposed salary ranges in all job listings; employers will be prohibited from requesting an applicant’s salary history, but potential employees will be permitted to offer such history for negotiation purposes; and employers will be required to keep records of job descriptions and salary history for all employees for a reasonable time period.
It also removes the authority of the Director of the Division of Labor Standards and Statistics in the Department of Labor and Employment to enforce wage discrimination complaints based on an employee’s sex. Instead, under the bill, an aggrieved person has a private right of action to pursue remedies in district court. Aggrieved persons will also have the ability to challenge retaliation by employers for good faith complaints of unequal pay. Employers will have the ability to defend against challenges by showing that the pay disparity was the result of a bona fide seniority, merit, or productivity-based pay system, or due to education, training, experience, geographic, or travel differences.
Achieving pay equity in Colorado would result in a 9.2 billion dollar boost to the state’s economy and a fifty percent decrease in working women living in poverty. According to studies, businesses would benefit as well. For instance, Pipeline Equity has compiled data that shows that for every seven percent in gender equity there is a corresponding revenue increase of three percent. These results are projected based on more efficient recruitment, improved performance and production, and increased retention. Ultimately, treating talent equitably leads to a high performing, efficient, and effective workforce.
While the Equal Pay For Equal Work Act does not represent the first attempt at achieving pay equity in Colorado, the Act seeks to strengthen and improve existing law that addresses pay equity and will lead to progress we will all see and experience sooner.
A Facebook Live Townhall Meeting will be held on Monday, April 22, 2019, at 12:30 pm, with House Co-Prime Sponsors, State Representatives Janet Buckner and Serena Gonzales-Gutierrez.
Nicole Jones is currently an Appellate Law Clerk for the Honorable Diana L. Terry at the Colorado Court of Appeals. She is the Editor in Chief of the “Tales from the Trenches” column and a member of the Colorado Women’s Bar Association Publications Committee. Any views or opinions reflected in this publication do not reflect the position of the Colorado Court of Appeals or the Colorado Judicial Department.