SHERIDAN — Legislators addressed results from the gender wage gap in a Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Committee meeting in Cheyenne Nov. 20 and approved or denied all bills set to address the wage gap found in Wyoming between men and women.
The joint committee presented three legislative pieces to potentially be introduced in the general session starting in January: equal pay penalties, wage transparency and wage equality-state employees and programs.
The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services research and planning section prepared a report in response to 2017 House Bill 209, which sought to better understand disparity in wages and benefits between men and women. The bill allowed the department to update and expand on a similar 2003 study, which found women earning 66.8 percent of what men earned on average in the state. The recent study indicated improvement in Wyoming by two percent, showing women earning 68 percent of what men earn on average.
Penalties address any employer who discharges or in any other manner discriminates against any employee because the employee has made any complaint to their employer, the director or any other person. Fines increased from $200 to $500 and keep the penalty of imprisonment for 10 to 180 days.
Legislator Rep. Joe MacGuire, R-Natrona, probed Tony Glover, research and planning manager with the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, about the actual data per occupation the study addressed.
“The report comes out and says there’s a wage differential period end of story,” MacGuire said. “At any point was there an actual audit done of employees for the state of Wyoming and someone said, ‘Aha! Here we have in this particular category or this employer, we have a wage differential?’”
Glover said they had not not specifically completed audits for each individual industry, but the department does have information from those different industries and can compare their aggregate wages by year and quarter and experience with the industry.
MacGuire was stopped by the committee chairman before going through each different type of occupation, asking Glover whether they audited big box companies or any other industry to receive concrete data on the true wage gaps.
“Do we have concrete data or is this all, where are you getting these numbers?” MacGuire asked.
Glover said the study included around 23 percent of Wyoming’s 2016 workforce and derived the data from several different places including a new hire survey the state has been collecting for 15 to 20 years.
Rep. Marti Halverson, R-Etna, who introduced the study and bills to legislators Tuesday, said the study is incredibly robust in comparison to what has been done elsewhere.
“The reality is every year, every year, Wyoming comes out at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to the wage gap between men and women, all right?” Halverson said. “We now have some additional data that explains it. We can get more and we can do it better if we did more (research), but the reality is what this bill does is one tiny step. So when that headline comes out that Wyoming is worse for women, we can turn around and say, ‘We understand that data, and we’re doing something about it.”
All three bills were voted to be introduced at the general legislative session by either the House of Representatives or Senate.