Colorado state legislatures have for years tried to pass a bill to close the gender pay gap. Politics, it seems, has gotten in the way. With both the Senate and House winning Democratic majorities in the 2018 elections, however, Senate Bill 85 is just one step away from Governor Jared Polis’ desk. The Colorado State House approved the bill last week. The Senate now must approve it, and then it will go to the Governor for his final approval.
Path to Approval
One woman who testified, Wendy Rockwell, was a manager in the biopharmaceutical industry who realized she was being paid over 60% less than similar male managers who worked for her company. She had no recourse within her company’s policies.
The gender pay gap has become smaller over the past five years, but women are still being paid roughly $0.20 less on the dollar than their male counterparts. The Colorado Bill would allow employees to file a civil lawsuit against their employers if they believe they are being underpaid due to their gender. The bill requires that such a lawsuit be filed within two years of an employee becoming aware of the disparity.
Senate Bill 85 would not only allow recourse for those being paid less due to their gender, but it would also prevent potential employers from asking an applicant for their salary history.
Opponents of the bill argue that salary history provides insight into whether an employee is qualified for the position. Opponents also argue that the bill could result in lawsuits that smaller businesses do not have the ability to fight and could end up in businesses being forced to close their doors or declare bankruptcy.
Representative Kim Ransom, a Republican representative of the 44th district in Colorado, in her argument against the bill, claimed that she has always had equality and was able to attain raises and promotions based solely on hard work, “not some arbitrary rule.”
The Actual Gap
While studies claim that the average woman makes approximately 80% less than men, others claim that when adjustments are made for occupational and educational choices, the difference is actually more like 94-98%.
Even still, however, women are still making 2-6% less than their male counterparts who have the same experience, education, and occupation.
The gender pay gap will surely be a point of contention in next year’s Presidential election, but for now, Colorado is trying to solve the problem on its own. Colorado’s bill has gone through a number of amendments before the Democratic-controlled House finally approved it. Originally, the courts would have had the discretion to award damages even if the gap in pay were unintentional, but the current bill now prevents any damages from being awarded in those situations.