Equal Pay, Equal Work Bill Drawing Debate About Whether It Will Help Women

DENVER (CBS4) – A Highlands Ranch woman is fighting to pass an equal pay for equal work bill after she says she was paid less than the men she supervised. According to the Department of Labor, women earned 83 cents on the dollar to men in 2017, the most recent data available.

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While there are a number of factors at play, gender can’t be dismissed.

Wendy Rockwell has 20 years of experience in pharmaceutical sales, an MBA, and a string of awards and promotions. But, for years she says her compensation didn’t match her credentials.

“Although I was exceeding on evaluations I was getting zero percent merit increase.”

Wendy Rockwell (credit: CBS)

She asked her colleagues — all men — what they were paid, and she says the information made her sick to her stomach.

“I was getting paid anywhere from 57 cents on the dollar to 69 cents on the dollar,” she said.

Rep. Jessie Danielson is sponsoring a bill aimed at closing the pay gap. It requires employers to post job opportunities and pay ranges, prohibits retaliation against employees who file complaints, and prevents the use of previous salaries to negotiate pay.

“When a prospective employer says ‘How much did you used to earn?’ The employee is sort of then pigeon holed in that salary range,” Danielson said.

The Colorado Chamber of Commerce says the bill will hurt women more than help them.

“It’s counter intuitive to intent of this bill and the goal of this bill. We all want to negotiate higher salaries so why would we allow a piece of legislation limit that opportunity for us,” said Loren Furman, spokeswoman for the Colorado Chamber of Commerce.

Loren Furman (credit: CBS)

The bill also allows employees to bypass the Division of Labor and take employers directly to court. The chamber calls it a landmine of litigation. Danielson says there are safeguards to prevent lawsuits in cases where there are clear differences in qualifications.

Wendy Rockwell says she eventually got a raise, but it took five years and new management.

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“Being paid less on the dollar doesn’t make sense,” she said.

The bill passed its first committee hearing Wednesday.

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