Coinciding with the annual celebration of International Women’s Day, Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence) has introduced two bills aimed at improving families’ bottom lines by ensuring fair pay and increasing access to paid family and medical leave.
International Women’s Day is a day to reflect on the achievements of women and the fight for gender equality. It is also a day for acknowledging the strides the world has taken in advancing women’s rights, freedoms and protections. The United Nations has recognized and celebrated International Women’s Day on March 8 since 1975.
Senator Goldin’s first bill would not only provide protections against wage differentials based on sex, but would require employers to justify any differentials that do exist based on bona fide factors other than sex.
For instance, if a complaint is made, and an employer claims that a disparity in pay exists due to non-gender factors, such as seniority, experience, training, skill or ability, the employer would have to demonstrate that the factor does not perpetrate a sex-based differential in compensation and is job-related with respect to the position.
“This bill is to combat wage discrimination practices by strengthening and closing gaps in the existing law,” said Senator Goldin. “We would also be ensuring that employees have the freedom to pursue their rights without fear of retaliation from their employers. We will also eliminate the use of someone’s wage history to determine salary for a new job, a hiring practice that has historically disadvantaged women. This bill ensures women –and the families who count on them – are treated fairly and paid equitably.”
In addition to justifying wage discrepancies, every employer would be required to post a notice that sets forth and explains the wage discrimination law. An employer found to be in violation of the law would be liable for the unpaid wages and liquidated damages which may be up to 300 percent of the total wages found to be due.
Senator Goldin has also introduced legislation that would expand Rhode Island’s family and medical leave insurance. The bill would expand temporary disability insurance benefits to state and municipal employees, increase the amount of wages paid through workers who use the insurance, modify the contribution formula, and increase the maximum amount of benefit weeks from 30 to 32. It also would increase from four to six weeks the length of time employees can receive temporary caregiver insurance benefits and would make employees who care for their siblings or grandchildren eligible for benefits.
In 2013, Rhode Island became the third state in the nation to pass paid family leave and the first to do so with job protection. Since then, New York and California have surpassed the minimum benefits in Rhode Island. Other New England States, including Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont are currently considering similar legislation based on Rhode Island’s model.
“Thousands of people have benefited from our temporary caregiver insurance, taking a few weeks off to care for their loved ones, without having to worry about making ends meet,” explains Senator Goldin, “yet, too many Rhode Islanders do not have access to the benefit and some cannot afford to take time off without 100 percent of their wages. This bill makes sure everyone has access to paid leave when they need it most.”
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