Study: Women’s pay gap contracts in Connecticut

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) speaks in 2011 on the issue of pay equity for women, in Guilford, Conn. alongside Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman (D-Conn.), left.

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) speaks in 2011 on the issue of pay equity for women, in Guilford, Conn. alongside Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman (D-Conn.), left.

In advance of a new Connecticut law meant to reduce inequities in compensation for women, a new federal study shows that the median woman earner in Connecticut made 85 cents on the dollar of the median man, an increase from prior years.

Connecticut employers closed the earnings gap a full 10 percentage points for women, according to newly updated estimates by the Boston office of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, reversing three years of declines tracked in BLS employer surveys. Despite the gain, the median woman employee in Connecticut still had an $8,500 shortfall from the wages earned earned over the course of a year on the job in comparison to her male counterpart.

The issue received fresh attention on Thursday after Google employees staged a walkout in New York City and other locations to protest what they said is a recurring problem of sexual harassment in some of the company’s offices, while also drawing attention to complaints of unequal pay for women.

Nationally, women made 82 percent of men on average, BLS determined, with New Mexico leading the United States in full-time women workers making 90 percent of what men drew on their paychecks, and Vermont tops in the Northeast at 88 percent.

Massachusetts trailed the region, with women making less than 81 percent of the take-home pay of men, with Wyoming last in the United States at 71 percent.

A new Connecticut law takes effect in January that prohibits employers from asking about applicants’ past salaries, with the rule intended to level the playing field for women, minorities and others for which there is evidence of pay discrepancies based on their demographic status.

Under the new rules, employers can ask about the structure of any job applicant’s prior compensation, for instance bonus or equity compensation; and cannot prohibit employees from discussing their salary terms with colleagues.

Job applicants can voluntarily offer their past pay histories, and the law does not preempt any existing federal or state laws that explicitly allow organizations to ask about past compensation. Employers can be sued within two years of any violation including for punitive damages.

For more than a decade, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3, has been attempting to raise the issue of pay equity at the national level, co-sponsoring in Congress the proposed Pay Equity for All Act that would enact a prohibition similar to that taking effect in two months in Connecticut; as well as the Paycheck Fairness Act that would give women and regulators more tools to make the case they are being compensated unfairly. In July, DeLauro and three other members of Congress asked the Government Accountability Office to study anew compensation differences between men and women working in federal agencies.

Companies have been prohibited since 1963 from paying women less than men for jobs of equal skill and responsibilities, but the issue of pay equity has persisted through the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 that extended the statute of limitations for women to sue if they discover they are being compensated unequally.

In a study published this week, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research projected that women will not achieve full pay parity on average with men until 2056.