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6/29/2021 House unanimously passes pay equity legislation sponsored by Donovan
STATE HOUSE – The House of Representatives today unanimously approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Susan R. Donovan which ensures pay equity for all employees, regardless of gender or ethnicity.

The legislation, H 5261 Sub A, comprehensively addresses wage discrimination based on race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, age, and country of origin. It expands employee protections and the scope of the remedies available to employees who have experienced such discrimination.

“I have experienced first-hand what it’s like to be paid unequally when you are doing comparable work,” stated Representative Donovan (D-Dist. 69, Bristol, Portsmouth). “It’s a devastating blow both emotionally and financially for so many women and people of color across Rhode Island. Women work just as hard as our counterparts to advance our careers and support our families, and we deserve to be compensated equally. This bill has been my priority since my first term in the legislature, and I am thrilled to see it pass the House.”

The bill:
  • Ensures that all employees are paid fairly and equally.
  • Provides that, if an employer violates the law, employees may be eligible to collect back pay, unpaid wages, and damages.
  • Allows a job applicant, employee, or former employee to seek relief from an employer’s unlawful pay practices at the Department of Labor and Training or in court.
  • Evens the playing field for job applicants and employees who are negotiating wages and salary with an employer. The legislation requires more transparency from employers with regard to wage ranges and protects applicants and employees from potentially damaging wage history information.
  • Protects “good employers” who are proactive and conduct a wage audit in order to fix any unlawful pay practices.
“I congratulate Representative Donovan, who has steadfastly introduced this legislation for each of the past four years and has never given up. She is a true champion for women’s issues and has kept pay equity at the forefront of the House’s agenda,” said Speaker K. Joseph Shekarchi (D-Dist. 23, Warwick), who has been a co-sponsor of her bill in recent years. “This legislation is the result of many hours of effort by advocates and representatives of the business community, who have worked tirelessly since the beginning of this year’s session. I predict this legislation will be a model for pay equity in the nation. Women deserve the same consideration their counterparts receive.”

According to data from the National Women's Law Center, women working full time, year-round typically make only 82 cents for every dollar men make nationally; the size of the disparity varies by state. In Rhode Island, women overall earn 84.8 cents for every dollar men earn.

Wage disparities disproportionately impact women of color: Black women in Rhode Island earn 60.9 cents and Latinas earn 52.6 cents for every dollar a white, non-Hispanic man earns. Additionally, women make up 65.2% of frontline workers in Rhode Island. Black and Latina women are overrepresented among frontline workers.[1] 

The bill now moves to the Senate, where companion legislation (2021-S 270A) has been introduced by Sen. Gayle L. Goldin (D-Dist. 3, Providence).

[1] Source: National Women’s Law Center

For more information, contact:
Emily Martineau, Deputy Director of Communications for the Office of the Speaker
State House Room 323
Providence, RI 02903
(401) 222-2466