State News

On one measure of the wage gap, Vermont is #1

In several recently released reports on working women from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), Vermont’s wage gap was the smallest in the nation.

Cary Brown, executive director of the Vermont Commission on Women, which works to advance rights and opportunities for women and girls, applauded news that Vermont’s most recent gender wage gap figure is 91.3 percent.

The BLS reports, “Highlights of Women’s Earnings” and “Highlights of Women’s Earnings in Region I: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont,” are frequently used to provide comparisons among the states for measuring women’s earnings as a percentage of men’s.

“Some of this results from women doing better and some of it results from men doing worse, especially among those with high school education or less,” observed UVM professor of economics and women’s studies Elaine McCrate. “I’d say we have a lot of work to do at the low-wage end of the labor market to make it better for all workers.”

“Our policymakers have made significant improvements in strengthening equal pay laws and in passing laws promoting workplace flexibility, both of which contribute to narrowing the wage gap,” Brown remarked.

Improvements since 2002 include the Equal Pay Act, ensuring that employees who do the same job requiring equal skill, effort and responsibility under similar working conditions receive the same pay, regardless of gender; and 2005’s Unlawful Employment Practices Act, ensuring that employees can disclose and discuss their wages without fear of discipline, discharge, or retaliation.

The most recent improvement was “An Act Relating to Equal Pay” (H. 99). This 2013 law made Vermont the first state in the country to protect an employee’s right to request flexible working arrangements. In addition, that law strengthened and clarified provisions for equal pay, extended further protections for employees who ask coworkers what they are paid; required compliance of government contractors with Vermont’s equal pay laws; enhanced protections for new mothers who must express breast milk for their babies at work; and established a study committee looking at the mechanics of a paid family leave law in Vermont.

The Commission on Women will be at the State House on Equal Pay Day, April 14, joined by business and professional women and advisory council organizations.

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