Employers are being challenged by the growth in the number of pay equity laws and regulations being approved by state, regional, and local governments across the country. Entire states have been passing similar laws to help combat the pay disparities that exist between men and women as well as between employees of different races and ethnicities. California and Oregon require public and private sector employees to conduct in depth pay analyses to identify disparities. The analysis must be conducted every three years in Oregon. New Jersey now forbids employers from punishing employees who openly discuss their earnings.
And these same governments that are passing these laws are facing similar challenges for their workers.
Take, for example, Fulton County, Georgia. Caseca Stegall was an IT manager for the county. She suspected that she was being paid less than her male counterparts. She made an open-records request in 2010 and found that her suspicions were true. However, at the time, there were no laws in place to rectify the pay inequality she was facing. Little did she know that she had put change into motion.
In 2017, Fulton County, the largest county in Georgia, passed a policy that allows employees to have a personal pay study performed. In the event the study identifies inequity, the employee can receive a pay adjustment. After the new policy was implemented, Stegall finally received a $14,000 raise to reach parity with a male colleague.
Since the Fulton County personal pay study policy has been in effect, roughly 30% of the requests to have a study performed have resulted in raises.
Similar issues are being raised with government workers in many states and cities. For example, California, which has been one of the leaders in the pay equity movement, has a more than 20% wage gap between female and male state employees, according to a state report released in 2016. The California state legislature is considering a bill to address this pay inequity among male and female state workers. In New York State, a study issued this year found that women are still confined to lower salary brackets compared to their male counterparts.
The fight for pay equity affects all working people, both in and out of government. Employers in the public and private sectors should continue to monitor their state and local legislation to be sure that they are complying with the new policies. Well-known, large employers, such as Uber and Nike, have already experienced some of the serious implications for failing to do so, such as increased legal liability and negative press.
Organizations should consider performing a pay audit to identify problematic pay disparities within their organization and to stay ahead of the curve if new pay equity laws have not already surfaced in areas in which they operate.