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Gender Pay Equity Bill Gets First Hearing At The Montana Legislature

Montana Capitol, Helena, MT.
William Marcus
Montana Public Radio
Montana Capitol

Lawmakers in Helena are considering a bill that aims to improve pay equity between men and women. But, some policymakers are questioning how the proposal would force employers to judge the merits of their employees.

Tuesday morning, Senator Sue Malek, a Democrat from Missoula, introduced Senate Bill 148; what she is calling the Montana Pay Equity Act in the Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs Committee.

Malek says her bill would put in place requirements to ensure that men and women are paid equally for doing comparable work.

The bill prohibits employers from requesting a job applicant's previous pay. The bill would also prevent employers from banning salary disclosure by employees. Senator Malek says her bill also clarifies what counts as comparable work.

"It is a huge step forward for businesses, employees and citizens in Montana, because when women are paid what they are worth, families are stronger and Montana's economy will thrive." 

No one testified in support of or against the bill.

Several of the committee members, including the committee's chair, Republican Ed Buttrey questioned how the bill would require employers to judge the value between their workers.

"Maybe I’m going to think I'm doing a good job measuring performance of one of my workers, and I am rewarding those doing the best work for the business, but is it bona fide and objective, who decides that?"

Senator Sue Malek says the bill requires employers to have objective ways to measure work performance.

The Senate committee did not immediately vote on SB-148.

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