Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced last week that he is proposing legislation designed to narrow the gender wage gap among the state’s workforce by halting “pay secrecy” — a practice among employers that frequently hinders pay discrimination from being pinpointed.
Under the proposal, it will become illegal for employers to prohibit their employees from disclosing their own compensation information or inquiring about the wages of another employee.
“This is a step towards ensuring equal pay for equal work, because equality on this issue is long overdue. Pay secrecy practices ultimately encourage discrimination and perpetuate the gender wage gap. Women deserve the same pay for the same work — and that’s why we’re standing up for real action on this issue,” Malloy said.
“Preventing these types of directives in the workplace will help bring us another step forward in making workplaces more equal. This proposal does just that.”
According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, in 2010 about half of all workers nationally reported that discussion of their wage or salary information was either prohibited or discouraged.
“Wage discrimination is insidious and damages the economic security of women and minorities in the workforce — and their families,” Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman said. “Ending pay secrecy is part of ensuring Connecticut’s global competitiveness and sends a signal that both women and men are valuable to the workplace and the economy, and that all employees must be compensated fairly and justly irrespective of gender and race.”
The Governor explained that his proposal does not require employers or employees to disclose wages, but rather it prohibits rules that prevent employees from disclosing that information on their own accord. As of 2014, 10 states have enacted laws to combat pay secrecy policies.
In 2013, Malloy created the Gender Wage Gap Task Force, co-chaired by Department of Economic and Community Development Commissioner Catherine Smith and Department of Labor Commissioner Sharon Palmer, which released a series of recommendations to address the problem of the gender wage gap.
The group identified “pay secrecy” as a potential factor in slower compensation growth among female workers.
“In the analysis we completed on this topic, we learned that frank and open discussions about wages in the workplace can help address the pay equity problem through increased awareness of the issue,” Commissioner Smith said. “This legislation retains a company’s confidential information, while allowing a more transparent and informed conversation on the topic.”
“Unfortunately, pay secrecy policies contribute greatly to the gender pay gap that continues to exist, and this legislation is an important step toward ending wage discrimination women encounter in the workplace,” Commissioner Palmer said. “In Connecticut, where women comprise approximately 47 percent of the workforce and are often responsible for ensuring the economic security of their families, pay fairness is key if we want to provide a better quality for life for our citizens and the generations that follow.”
Carolyn Treiss, executive director of Connecticut’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, said, “As we learned from the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, pay secrecy is fatal to pay equity. Unless women are free to discuss their salaries — if they so choose — without fear of retaliation, it’s nearly impossible to bring gender-based wage discrimination to light.
“The bottom line is this: if companies treat women and men equally, they shouldn’t fear such disclosure. We applaud the governor for taking this bold step.”
The legislation will be filed along with the governor’s package of proposals for the 2015 session of the General Assembly.