La. Senate approves revamped equal pay bill

La. Senate approves amended equal pay for women bill, would apply only to public employers

Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- A week after rejecting a bill that would have prohibited employers from paying unequal wages for the same job based on gender, the Louisiana Senate reworked the proposal Wednesday to apply only to state employees.

As changed and approved by the Senate, the bill would not apply to private companies. It was agreed to in a 23-13 vote over the objections by Sen. Ed Murray, who was pushing to include all businesses located in the state.

Murray, D-New Orleans, said women in Louisiana routinely make less than men who perform the same jobs. He said there is more salary disparity in the private sector, than among state employees.

Sen. Page Cortez, R-Lafayette sponsored the amendment, based on a Texas law, and called it a progressive "baby step." Without it, the bill faced a lot of opposition from the business community, Cortez said.

Murray's bill failed by one vote last week without the amendment.

On Wednesday, Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metaire, repeatedly asked Cortez whether the amended law would affect private business owners. He opposed Murray's original bill saying it would make private businesses vulnerable to lawsuits.

This is "strictly for women who are employed by the state of Louisiana?" ask Appel, a business owner. "There's no right of action against a private entity?"

Cortez's amendment says that "a woman who performs public service for the state is entitled to be paid the same compensation for her service as is paid to a man who performs the same kind, grade and quality of service, and a distinction in compensation may not be made because of sex."

It also defines "employer" as "any department, office, division, agency, commission, board, committee or other organizational unit of the state."

The bill now moves to the House for consideration.

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