Vermont women pull in 13 percent less than their male peers at work. Only Washington, D.C., has a better mark. But State Representative Jill Krowinski says the gap shouldn't exist 50 years after passage of the federal equal pay law.
"In the bill what we try to do is have our laws catch up to the way our working families are today," said Krowinski, D-Burlington.
State legislation sponsored by Krowinski would bar employers from retaliating against employees who inquire about the pay of co-workers. She says currently employees and investigators don't have the tools to prove pay disparity. The bill would require employers to consider flexible work arrangements when feasible, so parents could leave to pick up or drop-off kids at school before returning to work.
It would also create a paid sick day study committee.
"This is the first step in many that we need to get to, to achieve a really good balance for working families and employers," Krowinski said.
Census data analyzed by a national women's group found Vermont women received 84 cents on the dollar when compared to their male peers in 2010.
In 2011, the most recent data available, the gap closed by three cents to 87-- 10 cents higher than the national average.
The numbers do not account for time on the job, and analysts say that and other factors could be skewing the data.
Most concerning to Krowinski is that disparities exist even for those entering the workforce.
"And it grows still as they spend a longer time in the field," she said.
"It shocked me completely," said Sen. Kevin Mullin, R-Rutland County.
Mullin is chairman of the Senate's Committee on Economic Development. The group of five gave unanimous support to the bill Thursday.
"Until we're at a complete level playing field, for men and women for equal wages, we haven't fulfilled the goals," Mullin said.
Mullin says he doesn't believe employers are intentionally discriminating, but says Vermonters cannot be content with having the smallest wage gap.
Following the favorable recommendation from the Senate committee, the bill will either head to the full Senate or undergo one more round of language review.