The Iowa House has passed a bill that would penalize Iowa businesses that "willfully" pay male employees more than women — or women more than men — if they’re working in the same type of job.
Representative Vicki Lensing, a Democrat from Iowa City, said too many studies show Iowa woman are earning a fraction of what their male counterparts earn doing the same kind of work. "We’re 37th in the nation in terms of pay equity…Women are earning 78 cents for every dollar that men earn for the same position," Lensing said. "…It could be unintentinal discrimination, but women are not earning at the same rate that men are."
Lensing linked "pay equity" to economic development. "With a shortage of qualified workers, with a growing number of retirees, Iowa cannot afford to lose its qualified and educated women to other states that offer better economic opportunities," Lensing said.
If Iowa businesses are paying women less than men who’re working at the same kind of job, Republican Representative Jodi Tymeson of Winterset suggested there may be valid reasons for that pay disparity. "We don’t know that’s wage discrimination," Tymeson said. "…There could be a lot of things that factor into that."
The top Republican in the Iowa House argued requiring "pay equity" in the workplace will make it more difficult for Iowa businesses to make money in the current economic climate. House G.O.P. Leader Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha said the bill does nothing to get the 80,000 unemployed Iowans back to work. "I just want to make sure people understand what’s going on here," Paulsen said.
However, most Republicans voted for the bill as it passed the Iowa House on an 89-6 vote. Representative Doug Struyk of Council Bluffs was among the Republicans who voted for it. "As a husband and a father and a brother and a son, also the son of a Vietnam veteran, anytime you’re dealing with discrimination, it doesn’t matter if we’re talking about 10,000 individuals; 100,000 individuals — one individual is too many," Struyk said.
Democrats in the Iowa Senate endorsed the "pay equity" concept last month; however, all 18 Republicans in the senate voted against it. The House made a few changes in the proposal which must be reviewed and endorsed by senators before the bill goes to the governor.