Lawmakers roll out equal pay bills, say it’s ‘unconscionable’ reforms haven’t passed yet 

By: - March 24, 2021 2:51 pm

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

On Equal Pay Day, marking the day when white women will have earned the same amount on average as men have at the end of 2020, the Michigan Progressive Women’s Caucus announced a package of bills Wednesday to address the state’s gender wage gap and form a commission on pay equity within the Michigan Department of Civil Rights.

Equal Pay Day for Black women doesn’t take place until Aug. 3, Equal Pay Day for Indigenous women is on Sept. 8 and Latinx women won’t receive the same pay as white men until Oct. 21.

State Reps. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia), Christine Morse (D-Texas Twp.), Julie Brixie (D-Meridian Twp.), Stephanie Young (D-Detroit), state Sen. Rosemary Bayer (D-Beverly Hills) and MI Equal Pay Day Coalition organizer Mary Pollock held a press conference Wednesday to roll out this year’s equal pay package. 

“We have this press conference year after year, and in 2021, it’s unconscionable that we’re still having these same conversations as we stand up and simply call for all hardworking Michiganders to receive equal pay for equal work, regardless of gender,” Pohutsky said. 

In Michigan, white women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns in this state, Black women make 62 cents, Indigenous women make 57 cents and Latinx women make 54 cents. 

According to an analysis from the nonpartisan Lansing-based Michigan League of Public Policy (MLPP), Delta and Schoolcraft counties have the biggest gender wage gap in the state with a 63% female-to-male earning ratio, followed by Livingston and Oakland counties with a 70% female-to-male earning ratio. Eaton County has the smallest wage gap at an 88% earning ratio.

 “Building economic and financial security should be available to everyone, regardless of gender or race; but that has yet to become the reality for working women across our state and nation,” said state Rep. Stephanie A. Young (D-Detroit). “This is precisely why our legislation is such an important stepping stone for efforts to level the playing field and change the discriminatory status quo. It’s long overdue for the Legislature as a whole to step up for the hardworking women of Michigan. Talk is cheap and doesn’t pay the bills, put food on the table or keep a roof over anyone’s head. It’s time for action.”

The bill package would:

  • Create a commission on pay equity in the Department of Civil Rights
  • Modify the accrual date for claims of unequal pay
  • Require employers to disclose, upon request, wage information for similarly situated employees
  • Expand the prohibition of wage discrimination by amending the Workforce Opportunity Wage Act
  • Prescribe fines for wage discrimination based on sex
  • Require employers to post and inform employees about equal pay laws
  • Require a company with 5 or more employees to post a written job description for positions, including information about the skills required and the pay scale
  • Prohibit an employer from asking a job applicant for information about the applicant’s past compensation, or otherwise seek that information
  • Require the state to include a review of wage differentials in its annual report with the goal of decreasing wage disparity between sexes
  • Create an incentive program for employers who take steps to eliminate wage discrimination in the workplace and prescribe penalties for employers that violate equal pay laws
  • Require any business entering into a contract with a state agency or political division to receive an equal pay certification
  • Amend the time period in which an employer must notify an employee of deductions from that employee’s paycheck prior to deducting the wages

“We have had weak and overly narrow laws banning sex-based wage discrimination since 1963,” Pollock said. These laws largely protect employers from responsibility and liability, rather than addressing the problem of sex-based wage inequities. This is why we need the Legislature to pass and the governor to sign the proposed bills discussed today.”

No Republicans are sponsoring any bills in this package. But Pohutsky said she is optimistic that the bills will make it through the GOP-led Legislature because “this is a nonpartisan issue.”

The pandemic has shined a light on some of these gender inequities in the workforce, as women have suffered the majority of pandemic-related job losses nationwide.

“COVID-19 has made these gender wage disparities more clear than ever — and as women continue to bear the brunt of caregiving in this country, the closures of schools and lack of child care are making it even harder for women to make ends meet. Beyond the wage gap, we’re seeing women dropping out of the workforce altogether in order to care for children, elderly parents and others,” MLPP CEO and President Gilda Z. Jacobs said.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Allison R. Donahue
Allison R. Donahue

Allison R. Donahue covers education, women's issues and LGBTQ issues. Previously, she was a suburbs reporter at the St. Cloud Times in St. Cloud, Minn., covering local education and government. As a graduate of Grand Valley State University, she has previous experience as a freelance researcher for USA Today and an intern with WOOD TV-8. When she is away from her desk, she spends her time going to concerts, comedy shows or getting lost on hikes in different places around the world.