State Reps. Kent Smith (D-Euclid) and Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) recently introduced House Bill (HB) 138, legislation to fight pay discrimination in Ohio by establishing a toll-free equal pay hotline, an easily accessible, anonymous resource for workers to report wage discrimination and gather more information to find out if they could be victims of pay discrimination.
“While the federal Equal Pay Act was enacted over fifty years ago, Ohio has done little more to protect worker’s paychecks from unprecedented and illegal discrimination,” said Smith. “By providing the tools necessary to help ensure folks are receiving equal pay for equal work, we can attract more top talent and create a stronger economy for all Ohioans.”
The average working woman in Ohio is paid only 75 percent of what her male counterpart gets paid, regardless of educational background and job description. Minority women suffer the worst pay disparity: nationally, African American women are paid 63 cents and Hispanic and Latina women are paid 54 cents for every $1 paid to white men.
“Ohio workers should be able to discuss their salaries and report discrepancies without fearing they will be treated differently, demoted or fired,” said Boyd. “With women making up nearly half of Ohio’s workforce, the gender wage gap not only affects them but their entire families. This pay gap takes money out of the pockets of hardworking Ohioans that could otherwise go to helping families put food on the table, gas in the tank or even make a rent or mortgage payment.”
According to data compiled by the White House, in 2011, a typical 25-year-old woman working full time all year earned $5,000 less than a typical 25-year-old man. In just 10 years, her cumulative lost wages will reach $34,000. U.S. Census information shows by age 65, the average woman will have lost $431,000 over her working lifetime as a result of the earnings gap. At the current rate of progress, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research reported the gender wage gap in Ohio is projected to close in 2067, or 50 years from now.
The Ohio Civil Rights Commission, where Ohioans can currently file individual or group charges of discrimination for investigation, would operate the pay equity hotline. Calls can be made anonymously through the hotline. Anonymity is not required, but is an option for those who may fear retribution from their employer for filing a complaint.