Governor M. Jodi Rell has signed into law a bill co-sponsored by State Senator Dan Debicella to ensure that women are not discriminated against when it comes to pay in the workplace.
“Women should be paid the same as men if the job is the same,” said Senator Debicella. “Our new law sets up protections if anything other than skills, responsibilities, or performance are used as the basis for determining pay.”
While current law already prohibits gender-based pay discrimination, the new law extends the time for filing a complaint from one to two years and bolsters the whistleblower protections for employees involved in such cases. Also, the new law now allows a judge to add punitive damages in addition to back pay when a company is found guilty of discrimination.
“American society has made huge strides in ensuring men and women are equal in the workplace,” said Senator Debicella, “but we cannot tolerate any discrimination towards women in pay. The concept is fundamental to fairness—equal pay for equal work.”
At the same time, the law seeks to protect companies from unfounded or frivolous accusations by expanding possible employer defenses for legitimate reasons for pay differential. Connecticut law allows differences in pay between men and women if there are different responsibilities or performance on the job. Under the bill, companies accused of gender-pay discrimination would be deemed innocent if the pay differential was based on “a seniority system, a merit system…education, training, or experience”.
“The new law will ensure that any discriminatory pay practices towards women can be easily prosecuted, and witnesses will not have to fear retribution for coming forward,” added Senator Debicella, “but at the same time preserves companies’ rights to reward good performance, tenure, or skills with higher pay.”
The bill, HB-6135, was passed by the Senate 36-0 and by the House of Representatives 146-2 during the regular session that ended on June 4th.
In signing the bill, Governor Rell said “There is no room – and no excuse – for the outmoded notion that women deserve any less pay for doing the same job as men. We would not tolerate that sort of discrimination on the basis of race and we must not tolerate it on the basis of gender,” said Governor Rell. “At the same time, this law provides important protections for our employers against unsubstantiated claims of gender discrimination.”