Breen bill to promote pay equality receives committee approval

Posted: February 26, 2019 | Labor and Housing, Senator Breen

AUGUSTA — Legislation sponsored by Sen. Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, to promote pay equality in Maine received approval from the Legislature’s Committee on Labor and Housing on Monday. LD 278, “An Act Regarding Pay Equality,” now heads to the full Maine House and Senate for votes.

“My bill aims to promote fairness, plain and simple,” said Sen. Breen. “We need to pass legislation that makes sure discriminatory pay practices don’t haunt people through their entire careers. Diminished wages increase the risk of poverty and decrease a person’s ability to pay off student debt and save for retirement.”

LD 278 would change labor statutes and amend the Maine Human Rights Act to prevent employers from inquiring about a job candidate’s compensation history. Far too often, one act of pay discrimination can follow a worker through their entire career because employers base compensation on previous, unfair salary rates. According to the Maine Economic Growth Council, Maine women earn, on average, only $0.82 for every $1.00 earned by Maine men. Maine people with disabilities experience an even larger gap, earning about $0.65 for every $1.00 earned by workers without disabilities, according to the American Institutes for Research.

“Reliance on salary history in hiring practices allows for past discrimination based on gender and other factors to follow workers from job to job. A rapidly increasing number of states and localities are prohibiting employers from seeking salary histories, and businesses are finding the practice neither necessary nor beneficial,” said Whitney Parrish of the Maine Women’s Lobby.

“The common practice of requiring a job applicant to disclose their prior salary is one practice that can be changed in order to make some progress,” Adam Goode of the Maine AFL-CIO said in testimony supporting the bill. “LD 278 helps working people prevent employers from discriminating through unequal wages on the basis of gender, race or disability when workers who have similar skills and responsibilities are in comparable roles.”