Women rally at Statehouse for legislation against gender pay discrimination

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With miniature PayDay candy bars in hand, Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, and Sen. Jean Breaux, D-Indianapolis, called on fellow Indiana lawmakers to close what a study says is one of the nation’s largest wage gaps.

“This is what it looks like when women go home with their paycheck,” Lawson said at a press conference Wednesday, holding the “snack-size” treat in the air.

Hoosier women made 74 cents for every dollar earned by Hoosier men in 2016, according to a study completed in December by the left-leaning Indiana Institute for Working Families. The gap, however, is larger for minority women, nearing 36 percent for African-American and biracial women, and 44 percent for Latinas.

Both Breaux and Lawson are working together this session to pass legislation that would hold employers accountable for permitting a wage gap between male and female workers.

Senate Bill 93 and House Bill 1390 would grant the civil rights commission the ability to investigate employee complaints of unfair pay based on sex, race or national origin. HB 1390 would also prohibit employers from punishing employees for comparing or disclosing wages.

Both bills have been referred to committees, but neither has been scheduled for hearings.

“I should not have to work two or three times longer than my male counterpart in order to put food on the table for my family, provide clothing and shelter and nourishment,” Breaux said. I should not have to work two or three times harder, and I do in Indiana.”

Rima Shahid, executive director of Women4Change Indiana, joined the fight for equal wages in September. Now, Shahid is working with Breaux, Lawson and the Indiana Equal Pay Coalition.

“I’m not getting paid in the state of Indiana,” Shahid said. “As a minority, I find this even more appalling that I’m getting paid even less.”

Some economists say using overall earnings to determine a gender wage gap is a misleading method because total pay discrepancy can often be explained by factors other than overt discrimination. Studies that control for such factors as education, experience, industry, occupation and other factors usually find a much smaller gap in wages.

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