Legislators, advocates: 7th anniversary of Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act spotlights need to update, strengthen Pa. equal pay law

HARRISBURG, Jan. 29 – On the seventh anniversary of the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act becoming law, some legislators and advocates say Pennsylvania women need a stronger equal pay law.

Legislation to update and strengthen Pennsylvania's 55-year-old equal pay law has been introduced in the House by Reps. Brian Sims, D-Phila., and Tina Davis, D-Bucks; and in the Senate by Sens. Rob Teplitz, D-Dauphin/Perry, and Anthony Hardy Williams, D-Phila./Delaware.

The bills (H.B. 1160 and S.B. 303) would narrow the definition of determining factors for pay to education, training or experience, while also lifting the veil of pay secrecy and creating protections that permit employees to inquire about salaries without fear of termination. Current law allows for "any factor other than sex" to be a legitimate justification for disparities in pay.

Sims said, "Pennsylvania women are paid on average 54 to 83 cents for every dollar a man makes, depending on which county they live in. Equal work deserves equal pay – anything less is unacceptable."

Davis said, "Equal pay for equal work must advance from being a slogan to a reality in Pennsylvania. Income equality is a cornerstone of economic opportunity for Pennsylvania families. Pay discrimination is real, and Pennsylvania can ill afford to continue to shortchange women and their families. This needs to be fixed immediately."

Teplitz said, "Wage inequality and pay secrecy are not only a detriment to working women, but to families. Women make up half of our workforce, and many Pennsylvania households are headed by women, so improvements to the pay equity law not only impact women, but their families as well. We should all want wage equality for Pennsylvania workers. By celebrating the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, we also continue to raise awareness that equal pay means equal support for employees and their families."

Williams said, "By keeping women down, unequal pay for equal work and experience keeps society down. We hurt Pennsylvania because of this inequality. We all know it exists but we seem to only pay lip service to its extinction. This must change, and it’s why I am working with my legislative colleagues to make Lilly Ledbetter better."

"With women representing nearly one-half of the workforce, closing the gender wage gap is good for women, good for families, and good for the economy," said Dot McLane, president of AAUW-PA.

"We stand with pro-equality legislators in celebration of the seventh anniversary of the Lilly Ledbetter Act. President Obama’s signature in 2009 restored protection against pay discrimination, which many women of color experience. While white women currently make 75 cents on the dollar of what white men make - demonstrating a gender gap indeed - Black women earn 60 cents while Latinas earn 55 cents," said Tonya Lovelace-Davis, CEO, Women of Color Network Inc., which is a member of the Pennsylvania Campaign for Women’s Health, a growing collaboration of more than 50 organizations devoted to evidence-based policy to improve women’s health and economic security.

"We look forward to greater dialogue about the ways that those marginalized due to race, ethnicity, language access and other intersectional identities experience greater and deeper gender gaps. Pausing to commemorate this important act provides us with an opportunity to further conversation and action," she added.