Pennsylvania State Representatives Brian Sims, D-Philadelphia, and Erin Molchany, D-Allegheny, have introduced a bill aimed at clarifying and updating the legal standards for pay equity lawsuits.
House Bill 1890 would update the conditions under which employers could pay different wages because of a factor other than gender. These factors would include specific, job-related attributes such as education, training and experience.
The bill also would strengthen anti-retaliation protections for employees attempting to bring a pay-equity lawsuit against their employer and those who share information about their pay.
"Since the early 1960s, we've had pay equity legislation of some form or another," Sims said. "But in many ways, it was toothless."
Because of that, he said, the average woman worker still earns 84 cents for every dollar a man makes.
Sims said one of the hurdles is that many companies have policies – either formal or unofficial – that prohibit employees from discussing salaries.
In some cases, he said, employees could get fired for sharing their salary during a pay equity dispute.
"We're removing the barriers so women and employees can find out what they're worth," he said. "It will be legal for employees to discuss salaries with each other."
Sims said House Bill 1890 is the first of several bills the Women's Health Caucus will be introducing in 2014 that are aimed at improving women's health and lives.
"What we're talking about, beside pay equity, is the fact that the vast majority of minimum wage earners are women," he said. "We're tackling the issue of why more men are tracked to be doctors and more women are tracked to be nurses, not just that male nurses may be earning more than female nurses."
The bill has been referred to the House Labor and Industry Committee for review.