House approves pay equity bill

Legislation calling for pay equity based on sex and race is headed to a Senate committee after passing the House unanimously Wednesday. The full House also signed on as co-sponsors of HB225 by Rep. Adline Clarke, D-Mobile. Similar legislation, SB399, awaits action by the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee.

Clarke’s bill prohibits both public and private employers from paying employees of equal skill, effort and responsibility less than those of another sex or race. It does permit employers to pay employees differently based on seniority, merit, quantity or quality of production or other differentials not based on sex or race.

The federal Equal Pay Act of 1963 already “covers pay equity” based on sex, Clarke said, adding that Alabama and Mississippi are the only two of the 50 states that have not adopted state pay equity laws. The goal is “equal pay for equal work,” she said.

The legislation is much simpler and less of a regulatory burden on small employers than what Clarke originally proposed. The approved bill was a compromise reached between Clarke and small business advocates.

Multiple causes of action were removed from the bill, but it does allow an employee to bring civil action for reimbursement of lost wages if wage inequality is found. The employee must file suit within a year of the discriminatory action, under Clarke’s legislation.

Record-keeping requirements for employers with fewer than 50 employees would be the same as required by federal law. Employers with 50 or more employees would have to maintain wage records, job classifications and terms and conditions of employment for three years.

Much broader employment discrimination legislation, HB271 / SB342, has yet to receive committee consideration.

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