Senate committee advances bill aimed at ending wage gap between men and women

Published: Mar. 31, 2016 at 11:43 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 1, 2016 at 12:26 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A bill aimed at fixing the wage gap between men and women in Louisiana is heading to the Senate floor after overcoming its first hurdle Thursday at the capitol.

The Equal Pay Act, which requires employers to prove they pay equally, advanced through the Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations with a vote of 5-2.

Gov. John Bel Edwards testified in the committee, expressing support for the measure.

"When women do well, children do well and when women do better, children are going to do better," he told the committee.

He said that on average women in Louisiana are paid 65 cents for every dollar a man makes.

"Louisiana has the largest pay gap in the country, that ought to be unacceptable to all of us," he said.

Minority women meanwhile fare even worse. Latino women on average make 53 cents while African American women 48 cents for every dollar a white man makes, according to the governor.

Some business advocates called the bill redundant.

"In 1963, the Equal Pay Act was passed and it is in place today. We have the protections necessary now to enforce equal pay, and we believe adding an extra level of law … has a negative impact on small business owners," Dawn Starns, state director of the National Federation of Independent Business, told the committee.

She also concern that the bill could tie-up small businesses in litigation if they are accused of unequal pay. That is something the governor denied, saying that business owners have 60 days after receiving a written notice from a concerned employee to respond, either correcting the inequality or proving they are being paid equally.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans.

The bill now heads to the Senate floor.

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