JACKSON, Miss. — Mississippi will become the final state with a law requiring equal pay for equal work by women and men.
Republican governor. Tate Reeves signed House Bill770 on Wednesday. The bill will go into effect July 1.
Mississippi, which was not subject to a federal law in 1963 that requires equal pay for equal labor, has its own law. Alabama did it in 2019, however.
The Mississippi law says a lawsuit must be filed within two years of when a worker “knew or should have known” about pay discrepancies.
Angela Cockerham of Magnolia, who was an independent and pushed for this legislation, explained that the plaintiff in a pay discrimination case would be required to raise the wages of the worker with the lowest income rather than lower them.
The law says businesses with at least five employees must pay equal wages to women and men who work full-time jobs that require “equal skill, education, effort and responsibility” and that are done “under similar working conditions.”
Several exceptions are allowed, including seniority, merit, quantity or quality of production and “any factor other than sex,” including salary history and whether there was competition to hire an employee.
Cassandra Welchlin, leader of the Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable, advocates for equal pay but said the new law is “harmful” because it would allow an employer to pay a woman less than a man based on the pay history that workers bring into new jobs.
According to the Mississippi University Research Center, women in Mississippi earned 27% more than men working full time. This compares with a nationwide wage gap of 19%. While some gap can be explained by differences in the jobs men and women were doing, there was still a significant wage gap between the two. The gap in Mississippi was 18% while it was 15% across the nation.
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