Montana Public Radio

Montana Bill Takes Aim At The Gender Pay Gap

Feb 15, 2017

Supporters of a bill to create a so-called Montana Paycheck Transparency Act say it will help make sure men and women are paid equally for doing equal work.

Diane Sands, a Missoula Democrat, introduced Senate Bill 217 Wednesday morning in the state Senate.

"The issue of paycheck equity is a very serious matter for all Montanans, men and women both, for our families, and this bill tries to address a part of that problem," says Sands.

Sands' bill comes out of Governor Steve Bullock's Equal Pay for Equal Work task force, which was originally created in 2013.

Similar legislation to create a paycheck transparency act failed during the last legislative session.

According the governor's task force, women earn about 67 percent of men's median earnings in Montana, ranking the state 39th in the nation for gender pay equity. That rate is reportedly higher for women who are in the workforce full time.

Commissioner of Montana's Department of Labor and Industry Pam Bucy, who also served as co-chair of the governor's task force, testified before lawmakers in support of the bill.  

She says while the state does have laws that make it illegal for employers to pay people differently based on gender, the proposed legislation would help close the wage gap between men and women:

"By prohibiting employers from retaliating against their labor force for sharing their own wage, salary and benefit information. Studies have shown that employers with greater wage transparency corresponded to greater rates of pay equity."

Bucy is citing a 2016 article from the Wall Street Journal.

Bucy says as Montana faces a worker shortage, Senate Bill 217 will help workers get into the workforce and advance in their careers.

No one testified against the bill.

But some Senate committee members expressed concern that the bill would create additional ways for employees, who are unhappy with their pay, to sue employers, regardless of their value as an worker.  

The Senate Business, Labor and Economic Affairs committee did not immediately vote on the bill.