Equal Pay and Family Leave Proposals Debated in the House
Under the leadership of Speaker Dickie Lee Hullinghorst, equal pay and family leave will receive considerable attention by House Democrats as a legislative priority for 2016. They have introduced a package of bills this year designed to close the gap between how much women and minorities make compared to men and provide leave opportunities for employees.
All of the bills are expected to pass the House because Democrats have a majority there, their face a more difficult challenge in the Senate where Republicans who hold control of the Senate oppose the proposals. Democrats are expected to make equal pay, family leave and reproductive rights issues central to their election-year campaigns.
The NCLA Board of Directors discussed the legislative package at length at their most recent board meeting and opted to oppose the entire package. The NCLA believes employers consider a variety of factors when deciding pay for their employers and government mandates on private sector pay will only serve to undermine growth and economic opportunities for employees and employers alike.
Last year, Colorado’s Equal Pay Commission was not renewed after it was argued that the commission had produced little or no substantive work in its previous eight years. A bill has been introduced to re-establish the commission in 2016.
A report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics last year indicated Colorado women make 77.9 percent of what men receive in weekly wages, below the 82.1 percent national gender gap average, proponents argue.
The first bill introduced in the 2016 legislative session, House Bill 16-1001, addressed holding state contractors to an equal pay standard. It was co-sponsored by the entire House Democrat caucus. The measure is modeled after a California law that went into affect on January 1. The bill provides some exceptions, such as seniority, merit and how much work one employee does compared to another.
Another measure would allow employees in all private companies to freely discuss their pay with anyone without retribution from employers, while the final bill would bar employers from asking about pay history in hiring workers.
“When women are earning equal pay for equal work, our entire economy will grow and families will become more secure and have greater opportunities,” Rep. Jesse Danielson, D-Wheat Ridge told The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. “Equal pay for equal work means breaking down barriers to economic opportunity and financial security. That’s how we grow the middle class.”
“House Democrats live in a world devoid of reality,” countered Kelly Maher, executive director of the right-leaning Compass Colorado in discussing the measures with The Sentinel. “Employers consider a variety of factors when they are deciding pay, including education, experience and quality of work. Taking those factors out of the equation will stifle growth and progress in every sector and industry across the state.”