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Equal pay bill moves forward

May 4, 2017
By Sarah Gamard
Originally Posted on The Advertiser

BATON ROUGE — The Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee moved favorably Wednesday on a bill requiring Louisiana’s private businesses to guarantee equal pay for male and female employees.

Author Sen. Morrell Morrell, D-New Orleans, sponsored the same bill last year, but it did not pass committee after clearing the Senate for the first time in legislative history.  This time he was more successful.

Among other entities, the Louisiana Homebuilder’s Association and Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) oppose Senate Bill 2.

LABI small business director Renee Amar said she has problems with SB2, partly because it removes an employer’s ability to negotiate his or her own terms in contracts and does not acknowledge the potential of unintentional discrimination.

In response, Morrell pointed to his "no-harm, no-foul" provision, which was put in this year’s revision. Under it, if an employer self-corrects an employee's pay gap after the employee seeks to rectify it, the employee cannot sue.

Under SB2, if the employer does not self-rectify and the employee does sue for pay discrimination, the limit on back pay would be three years. Morrell said that most states with equal-pay legislation give up to nine years of back pay, and Louisiana lawmakers compromised their own state to allow three.

Amar disagreed with Morrell’s premises. “(Employers) this day and age do not care what gender you are,” Amar said.

“I wish that was truly the case,” said Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, who sits on the committee. “The data shows a lot differently... I just totally disagree.”