Equal Pay Act Goes To Senate

Apr 27, 2017

Legislation passed out of the House Wednesday is meant to help close the gender wage gap in the state.

After a House vote of 91-24, the Equal Pay Act amendment will now be considered in the Senate as SB 981, under the sponsorship of Sen.  Daniel Biss, a Democrat from Evanston. 

Democratic Rep. Anna Moeller of Elgin, who sponsored House Bill 2462, says that while she expected the House to pass the bill, she was surprised by the number of yes votes.

“It just shows that this is an issue that is important to women in Illinois and families in Illinois,” she said. 

In stark contrast to other women’s rights legislation considered earlier this week, the Equal Pay Act amendment received support from both sides of the aisle. HB 40, for example, a bill that would allow for abortion coverage under Medicaid and that could eliminate trigger language from the original Illinois Abortion Law of 1975, was carried out of the House through sole Democratic support.

Twenty-four Republicans voted against the Equal Pay Act measure, which would make it illegal for employers to ask job applicants about their salary history.

One of those Republicans, Rep. Mark Batinick of Plainfield, said that salary history is important for commission-based jobs to properly evaluate an applicant’s past performance. He has a commercial real estate background where commissions are part of the job.

“To say that it is not relevant when I am hiring somebody that works on commission … when [salary history] is a direct correlation to how well they did their last job, I think that it is an absurdity,” he said.

Women in Illinois make 80 cents for every dollar that a man makes. Black women make 63 cents for every dollar made by nonwhite Hispanic men, and Latina women make 48 cents on the dollar. And overall, women make less than men across occupations and regardless of educational level. Asking for salary history, proponents say, would only lead to hiring discrimination.

“Asking about previous salary just perpetuates the lower salaries of women and people of color —and it carries over into retirement. So, the poverty rates among women and people of color are just higher — and it is a lifelong situation,” says Wendy Pollack of the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law in Chicago, a policy and research think-tank.

If the measure passes out of the Senate and makes it to the governor’s desk, Illinois would be the second state — behind Massachusetts —  with such a law.

Rep. Steven Andersson, a Republican from Geneva, said that while this was not a perfect bill, it had merit.

“We have to accept the reality that women are being paid less than men,” he said.