(UM Legislative News Service) According to the most recent stats from the U.S. Census Bureau, Montana women earn 73 percent of what men earn. Rep. Laurie Bishop, D-Livingston, said she wants to help close that gap.
“And that is a complicated and a multifaceted task,” Bishop said. “But we are driven by data. Data shows that some of the best strategies that we can use not only benefit women, but they can also benefit the workforce in general. This is certainly the case for paycheck transparency.”
Bishop is sponsoring House Bill 547, which would prevent employers from penalizing employees who discuss wages and benefits. She is a member of the Equal Pay for Equal Work task force, which was established by Gov. Bullock in 2013 to help study the pay gap in Montana.
Bishop says employees being able to self-enforce pay disparities would help close the pay gap and build healthier work environments.
“Employers that are using transparency practices actually have more harmony and employees are more motivated,” she said.
The bill had three supporters when it was heard before the House Business and Labor Committee Friday. CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce Cary Hegreberg, the bill’s only opponent, said employees already talk about their wages and legislation isn’t necessary.
“There’s always going to be that kind of chatter in the workplace. But can we actually legislate how employees can or cannot have discussions about their compensation,” Hegreberg said.
The bill also protects employees who don’t want to discuss their past wages and mandates employers to post wage ranges when when advertising open positions.
The Business and Labor Committee did not immediately vote on the bill.
Tim Pierce is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Greater Montana Foundation and the Montana Newspaper Association.