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Equal pay bills pending at State Capitol, one passes House

Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 8:18 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Mississippi’s status as the only state without an equal pay law could change in the next few months.

But there are questions about exactly what level of protections that law may provide.

A significant question each year equal pay has been brought up is why a state law is needed since there is a federal law in place. Advocates will tell you the federal law is a baseline and in a state like Mississippi, there’s a need to go beyond that.

“We don’t want just equal pay law just to say we have it,” said Cassandra Welchlin, executive director of the Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable. “We need one that works, again, for our families and for our communities.”

And on week three of the session, one version has cleared the full House.

“Well, you said you don’t know the numbers,” Rep. Angela Cockerham said in response to a question about whether she knew the number of women who were and would be impacted. “If you have one woman, that is one too many.”

The House bill authored by Rep. Angela Cockerham passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 111-5 Thursday afternoon.

But Cassandra Welchlin with the Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable doesn’t think it has all the elements it needs to be a meaningful law. The main elements missing that advocates are hoping to see included? Race, including part-time workers and a ban on salary history.

“We know that when salary history is asked for, that makes the wage gap even wider,” said Welchlin. “And so we need a bill that includes that.”

None of those elements are in the Senate version either. It hasn’t passed out of committee yet but they believe it has the necessary support.

“We’ve looked at legislation that was passed with other states, that is the beauty but we’ve seen what is needed, what needs to be included in there,” noted Sen. Boyd.

The Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable is concerned that the Senate version puts the burden of proof on the women.

“That’s very difficult,” said Welchlin. “Because women oftentimes don’t know that they are being discriminated against.”

Co-author Sen. Brice Wiggins says he’s not concerned with that.

“I think most people know,” noted Wiggins. “I think also to be honest with the internet, with the tools that are available, also, you have government numbers here in the state of Mississippi, you can look at that. Also, I think people are aware of what their value is in the marketplace. So I think it’s, it’s certainly fair to do that.”

We’ll keep you posted on which version survives both chambers or if it gets sent to a conference committee to work on a compromise.

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