OLR Bill Analysis
HB 5591 (as amended by House "A")*
AN ACT CONCERNING PAY EQUITY IN THE WORKFORCE.
This bill limits the defenses available to employers in a gender wage discrimination lawsuit brought under the state's labor law (see BACKGROUND). It prohibits employers from using:
1. an employee's prior wage and salary history as a bona fide factor defense and
2. a seniority system to defend its pay differentials, if the employer reduces an employee's seniority for time spent on leave due to a pregnancy-related condition or protected family and medical leave.
The current labor law generally prohibits gender wage discrimination by requiring employers to pay employees an equal wage for a job that (1) requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility and (2) is performed under similar working conditions. The bill specifies that the second provision applies to workers performing jobs under “comparable,” rather than “similar,” working conditions. (It is unclear whether this change has any legal effect.)
The state's human rights law also prohibits various discriminatory employment practices, such as gender wage discrimination (CGS § 46a-60). The bill repeals a provision that specifies that the human rights law does not void or supersede the labor law's prohibition on gender wage discrimination. (It is unclear whether the repeal has any legal effect.)
*House Amendment “A” replaces the underlying bill, which specified that the labor law's prohibition on gender wage discrimination applied to workers performing jobs under “comparable,” rather than “similar,” working conditions.
EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2017
Gender Wage Discrimination
The state's labor law allows employees (or the labor commissioner) alleging gender wage discrimination to sue employers for lost wages, compensatory damages, attorney's fees and, in some instances, punitive damages (CGS § 31-76). However, employers with pay differentials can defend themselves by showing that the differentials are based on (1) seniority; (2) merit; (3) a system that measures production quantity or quality; or (4) bona fide factors such as job-related education, training, or experience (CGS § 31-75 (b)).
Employees alleging gender wage discrimination under the state's human rights law cannot sue their employers unless they first pursue their complaints through the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities' administrative process or receive a release from the commission (CGS §§ 46a-94a and 46a-101).
HB 5210, reported favorably by the Labor and Public Employees Committee, prohibits employers from asking about a prospective employee's wage and salary history before negotiating his or her job offer and compensation. It also makes several changes to the defenses available to employers in a gender wage discrimination suit.
Labor and Public Employees Committee