Fifty years after Congress banned discrimination in employment, up to 40 percent of the wage gap cannot be explained by occupation, qualifications, or hours worked. Women hold almost half of all jobs and earn the majority of college degrees, yet the typical woman working full time in Washington earns only 80 cents to a man’s dollar. The wage gap is significantly worse for women of color. Nationally, Black women earned 67 cents and Latinas earned 56 cents for every $1 paid to white men.
Unequal pay hits families in the pocketbook and slows down our economy. The average Washington woman working full-time brings home $18,000 less each year than the average man. That keeps families strapped, reduces spending in local businesses, and helps explain why 19 percent of our state’s children live in poverty. It also limits women’s ability to invest in education or starting a business, and results in less retirement income.
Many companies prohibit workers from discussing pay so no one knows if they are being paid less than their co-workers. Employers sometimes track men into more highly paid occupations and women into lower paying jobs.
Existing laws are insufficient to stop wage discrimination. The Equal Pay Opportunity Act would protect workers from being fired or retaliated against for inquiring about or discussing compensation. It would also require employers to justify differences in job opportunities and pay based on legitimate factors like education — not gender.
Learn more about the Equal Pay Opportunity Act on the Washington Work and Families Coalition website.