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CT Passes Pay Transparency and Wage Discrimination Legislation

On June 8, 2021, Connecticut’s Governor Lamont signed House Bill Number 6380, which requires employers to disclose to applicants and employees the salary ranges for positions.  Significantly, the law also expands Connecticut’s prohibition of gender-based pay discrimination to require equal pay for “comparable,” as opposed to “equal,” work.  The bill, entitled “An Act Concerning the Disclosure of Salary Ranges,” goes into effect on October 1, 2021

Recently, Colorado passed comprehensive pay equity legislation in 2019 that requires employers to include compensation ranges and descriptions of benefits in every job announcement.  Employers also must take all reasonable actions to inform current employees of promotion opportunities. In addition to Colorado, three states have passed similar legislation.

Salary Disclosure

*House Amendment “A” (1) requires employers to provide employees with their wage range when they change positions and upon their first request, rather than at least annually and upon any request, and (2) expands the list of examples of bona fide factors for wage differences to include credential, skill, and geographic location.

  • Failing or refusing to provide an applicant for employment the wage range for a position for which the applicant is applying upon the earliest of (a) the applicant’s request or (b) prior to or at the time the applicant is made an offer of compensation; or
  • Failing or refusing to provide an employee the wage range for the employee’s position upon (a) the hiring of the employee, (b) a change in the employee’s position with the employer, or (c) the employee’s first request for a wage range

“Wage range” is defined as the “range of wages an employer anticipates relying on when setting wages for a position.” It can include references to pay scales, previously determined wages for the position, actual ranges for the employees who currently hold a comparable position, or the employer’s budgeted amount for the position.

An individual may bring a civil action for violations of these new requirements within two years after a violation. Potential remedies include compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and costs, punitive damages, and other legal and equitable relief.

Gender Wage Discrimination

It was introduced in the current General Assembly session by Rep. Anne Hughes, whose legislative district includes Easton, Redding, and Weston in Fairfield County.  Re-elected to a second term in November 2020, she unseated a Republican incumbent in 2018 to become the first Democrat to represent the district in over 30 years.

Why is this law important to close the gender pay gap?

  • Women in CT earn, on average, $0.84 cents for every dollar paid to men

The gender wage gap is more severe for women of color in CT:

  • Asian women working full time, year-round earn $0.83
    • Black women working full time, year-round earn $0.57
    • Native women working full time, year-round earn $0.55
    • Latina women working full time, year-round earn $0.48

Women’s earnings are critical to their families’ economic security.

  • In CT, 9.9% of women live in poverty, including 11.4% of Asian women, 13.9% of Black women, 22.8% of Latina women, and 17.8% of Native women. (NWLC)
  • More than 170,000 family households in Connecticut are headed by women. Roughly 24% of those families, or 40,431 family households, earn incomes that fall below the poverty level.
  • Nearly 50% of female-headed households in CT under age 65 live within the ALICE threshold, with earnings above the poverty level but below what’s needed to meet a family’s basic needs such as health care, housing, childcare, and transportation. (Women and Girls)

The wage gap exacerbates the impact of COVID-19 on women, specifically women of color working in frontline jobs.

  • Nationally, about 80% of healthcare workers – including 88% of registered nurses – are women. According to the National Women’s Law Center, women make up 85% of home health and personal care aides, with 59% of them being women of color. Due to the gender wage gap, they lose $5,000 per year.
  • Sixty-six percent (66%) of grocery store workers are women, and 43% of them are women of color. Women in this occupation lose $3,000 annually to the gender wage gap.
  • Ninety-three percent (93%) of childcare workers are women, and 44% of them are women of color. Childcare workers lose $5,000 per year to the gender wage gap.

The wage gap adds up over time.

  • On average, women in CT lose $529,160 over the course of a 40-year career due to the gender wage gap. White women in CT lose $637,280, Black women lose $1,212,480, Latinas lose $1,488,800, and Asian women lose $552,840 due to the gender wage gap. (NWLC)

While the previous law if employers could not pay someone of the opposite sex less for equal work, the amendment provides that employees of the opposite sex may not be paid less for comparable work.  This falls in line with our northern neighbor, Massachusetts’ 2016 law which requires equal pay for comparable work and defines comparable work as “work that is substantially similar in that it requires substantially similar skill, effort and responsibility and is performed under similar working conditions.” Ma’s regulations are available here. In addition to MA, nine states have passed similar language.

Existing law allows an employer accused of gender wage discrimination to defend itself by showing that a pay difference is based on a (1) seniority system; (2) merit system; (3) system that measures earnings by production quantity or quality; or (4) differential system based upon a bona fide factor other than sex, such as education; training; or experience. The bill specifies that these other bona fide factors may also include credentials, skill, and geographic location.

Under existing law, an employee who alleges gender wage discrimination may file a complaint with the labor commissioner, or the commissioner may investigate on his own motion. If the complaint is not investigated by the commissioner, the employee may bring an action in court (CGS § 31-76).