Gender Pay Equity

In order for our city to thrive, we must strengthen the economic security of women in our workforce by taking affirmative steps to close the gender wage gap. Currently our gender wage gap is the worst in the nation; women in the Seattle area are paid 73 cents for every dollar paid to men. This amounts to a yearly gap of $16,346 between men and women who work full-time, and this gap increases further for women of color and transgender women.

Women should receive equal pay for equal work. The National Partnership for Women and Families (NPWF) calculated that on a national level over the span of a 30-year career, a woman can expect to earn $332,520 less than her male counterpart. This has considerable implications for perpetuating economic insecurity and poverty for women. According to the NPWF study, if we successfully eliminated the pay gap, the average woman would have approximately enough money to pay for 1.5 years of food for her family, seven more months of mortgage and utility payments, or 11 months more of rent. This is a real problem for the 20,000 households that are headed by women in our city, and even more so for the 23% of those households that fall below the poverty level.

To address this inequity the city can take concrete steps. One crucial step is to establish a citywide paid family leave policy for all workers within the city limits. That must also be matched with a policy to prohibit gender wage discrimination, and to extend gender anti-discrimination provisions to all city contracts. The city can remove other barriers too, like prohibiting salary history in hiring practices which historically disadvantages women.

Paid Family Leave

I support the city’s current proposal to provide up to six months paid family leave (PFL) to all workers in Seattle. The plan will provide up to 26 weeks of paid leave for workers to care for a new child or a family member with serious medical condition. The policy also builds on the city’s current paid sick leave policy, expanding it to 12 weeks of paid leave for employees facing a serious medical condition.

The PFL proposal especially benefits lower wage workers. Workers making less than $50,000/year would receive 100% of wages for up to six months. Individuals making more than $50,000 are eligible to receive up to $26,000 over 26 weeks. The leave would be paid for by a payroll tax on both employees and employers. Employers would pay 70% and employees would pay 30% of the tax. I support this proposal because it represents a concrete step toward reducing the gender wage gap by supporting working families.

Prohibit Gender Wage Discrimination

In addition to paid family leave, the City of Seattle can support women by adopting additional policies that prohibit gender wage discrimination. First, we should prohibit employers’ use of a job applicant’s previous pay rate in determining future compensation. It is a standard practice for employers to require job applicants to disclose their previous salary in making compensation decisions for their potential employment. However, because there is an existing pay gap between men and women, this perpetuates the cycle of pay inequity. Compensation should be determined by previous experience (not previous wages), credentials, and the demands of the job.

Additionally, we should add “Parental Status” as a protected class under Employment and Fair Contracting cases. The City of Seattle enforces Title VI nondiscrimination laws by establishing “protected classes” in both housing and employment. The city has enacted by ordinance protected classes that go beyond the federal law, such as race, sex, gender identity, marital status, political ideology, religion, sexual orientation, and military status or veteran status. These classes establish the backbone of our anti-discrimination laws; however, there has been a glaring omission. “Parental Status” is a protected class only in housing cases, but not in Employment and Fair Contracting cases. That means a woman, or a man, who is discriminated against based on their parental status at work does not have any recourse to file a civil rights complaint. The city must establish Parental Status as a protected class in Employment and Fair Contracting cases.

Prioritizing City Contractors with Gender Wage Equity

The City of Seattle holds many contracts with private companies to provide a variety of needs and services. In order to promote gender pay equity in the private sector, the city should give preference to contractors who demonstrate that they pay their employees fairly. To facilitate the competitive bid process, contractors must be required to disclose their wage data to the Office of Labor Standards. The city can then use this data to prioritize awarding contracts to contractors with high pay equity marks. In addition, the City should prioritize contracts with women and minority-owned businesses (WMBEs). In 2015, 85% of city contracts went to non-minority business owners. We can support WMBEs by having a city policy to prioritize contracting with them (similar to the priority hire program).