Democrats reintroduce repealed equal pay law

State Democrats introduced a law repealed by Republicans three years ago that they say would allow the state to enforce laws preventing pay discrimination on the basis of sex.

Originally passed in 2009, the law authorizes state courts to order employers pay damages to victims of discrimination. The law was only on the books for three years before a new Republican majority in the state voted to repeal the legislation on a party-line vote in both the state Senate and Assembly.

“While Republicans have said they support equal pay they eliminated the best tool we had to enforce the law and close the gap—the ability of victims of wage discrimination to get justice through our civil court system,” said state Sen. Dave Hansen, D-Green Bay, one of the bill’s authors, in a Monday statement.

Republicans argued in 2012 the law put an unnecessary legal burden on businesses in the state and created a procedure by which some could file frivolous lawsuits against businesses. A number of companies and commerce associations lobbied heavily in favor of the repeal.

Gov. Scott Walker signed the law’s repeal in 2012 without comment. Reinstating the law became a campaign promise for Democratic challenger Mary Burke as she unsuccessfully competed against Walker before the 2014 gubernatorial election.

Wisconsin still has another law in place that forbids discriminating against any individual when considering compensation or promotions on the basis of sex. Hansen argued in the statement that law alone cannot prevent a growing state wage gap between sexes.

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