OKLAHOMA CITY – Two measures to provide protections against wage discrimination passed out of the Senate Tuesday. Senate Democratic Leader Kay Floyd is the author of the bills, which will now move to the House.
“Unfortunately, even though there are federal laws in place to protect employees from various types of discrimination including wages, it hasn’t stopped this unfair practice from continuing,” said Floyd, D-Oklahoma City. “It’s 2019, and unfortunately we’re still hearing stories on a regular basis of women getting paid less than their male counterparts. These measures will hopefully deter Oklahoma employers from committing wage discrimination but also empower employees to hold their employers accountable to rid their workplace of any and all discrimination.”
Senate 645 modifies provisions related to discrimination in payment of wages by prohibiting discrimination on the basis of a person’s sex if there are no discernable differences in the character or work on comparable operations. This does not prohibit differences in payment based on a merit system, commissions on sales, seniority, geographic location, education or training, travel, or any other differential not based on sex. Leave due to a pregnancy or family and medical leave may not reduce seniority. An employer who is paying a wage differential in violation of this bill cannot reduce an employee’s salary in order to comply with the provisions of this bill.
SB 645, which was approved 40-4, also increases the fine associated with discrimination. The minimum fine is increased from $25 to $100 per violation per pay period. The maximum fine is $200 per violation per period. The Commissioner of Labor may require the employer to pay any back pay found to be owed to the employee.
SB 649 prohibits employers from discharging or discriminating against an employee for inquiring about, discussing, or disclosing his or her wages or the wages of another employee with someone employed by the company. An employer may prohibit an employee whose job responsibilities require and allow access to other employees' wage information from disclosing wage information.
The measure, which passed 30-14, also increases the fine for labor violations from a minimum of $25 to $100 and sets a maximum penalty of $200 per violation per pay period.