Analysis: Equal pay efforts reviving in Mississippi in 2022

MGN Online

Mississippi is the only state without a law requiring equal pay for equal work by women and men, after Alabama enacted one in 2019.

Posted: Oct 3, 2021 4:00 PM
Updated: Oct 4, 2021 9:13 AM

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi is the only state without a law requiring equal pay for equal work by women and men, after Alabama enacted one in 2019.

Efforts have fallen short in Mississippi in recent years, but Senate Labor Committee Chairman John Hohrn, a Democrat from Jackson, promises to make another push for equal pay legislation in 2022.

Opponents have said there's no need for a Mississippi law because of two federal laws — the Equal Pay Act of 1963 signed by President John F. Kennedy and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 signed by President Barack Obama. Some also say they don't want the state to put new regulations on businesses.

2017 report by the Mississippi University Research Center showed women earned 27% less than men for fulltime work in Mississippi, compared to a 19% wage gap nationwide. The study said some of the gap could be explained by factors such as types of jobs women and men were working, but the unexplained wage gap remained about 18% in Mississippi and about 15% nationwide.

The report said a portion of the unexplained gap in Mississippi “may be due to discrimination," but other factors such as the choice of college majors or decisions about work-life balance may be in play.

“If women are willing to take lower pay so that they can work hours more suitable to their family’s needs, then discrimination is not at play,” the report said. "However, if employers assume all women are willing to take lower pay for more flexible hours and therefore do not offer women other options, discrimination could exist.”

Cassandra Welchlin, executive director of the Mississippi Black Women's Roundtable, told the Senate Labor Committee on Wednesday that women comprise 49% of the Mississippi workforce but 67% of the minimum-wage workers. She said that over a 40-year career, a Black woman in Mississippi stands to lose more than $849,000 because of the wage gap.

“It's time for Mississippi women to share in the protection that women in other states experience,” Welchlin said.

Welchlin said Mississippi needs an equal pay law that does not require people applying for jobs to disclose their salary history because such disclosure often ensures that women remain on track for lower earnings.

Senators on Wednesday also heard from Ledbetter, whose legal battle over equal pay went to the U.S. Supreme Court. Ledbetter worked 19 years at a Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in Gadsden, Alabama, and sued in 1998 after learning she had been paid significantly less than male colleagues in the same job. A jury awarded her $3.8 million, but the Supreme Court reversed the decision in 2007. Justices said she waited too long to sue, and did not rule on whether discrimination occurred.

Speaking to Mississippi lawmakers by videoconference, Ledbetter said earning less money for equal work affects the type of houses people live in, the kind of food they eat and the kind of retirement they will have.

“I know what it’s like to dig and scratch out a living,” Ledbetter said, noting that many in Alabama and Mississippi are in the same position. "And it’s time that women can stand up with dignity for their education and their training and earn a good living.”

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, the first woman elected to that job, is among supporters of equal pay legislation. A deputy attorney general, Whitney Lipscomb, spoke to the Labor Committee on behalf of Republican Fitch, saying it's a bipartisan issue that affects everyone.

“Equal pay is an opportunity for the state to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty and strengthen our economy,” Lipscomb said.

She said a law should require equal pay for “equal work in the same job that requires equal skills, effort, education, experience, responsibilities and performance under similar working conditions.” She also said it should provide exceptions based on seniority systems or merit systems that are based on quantity or quality of production or differentials based on factors other than sex.

“Passing a state equal pay law will not impose any new obligations on employers,” Lipscomb said.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 512632

Reported Deaths: 10262
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison34853555
DeSoto33162432
Hinds32556641
Jackson24830389
Rankin22442402
Lee16238242
Madison14874283
Jones14086247
Forrest13741259
Lauderdale12249324
Lowndes11286193
Lamar10644140
Pearl River9707244
Lafayette8827143
Hancock7835132
Washington7550169
Oktibbeha7204138
Monroe6989179
Pontotoc6970109
Warren6849178
Panola6746134
Neshoba6726210
Marshall6653141
Bolivar6440151
Union633897
Pike5924156
Alcorn5862107
Lincoln5525136
George510180
Prentiss500884
Tippah490282
Itawamba4829107
Scott477499
Adams4766125
Tate4748116
Leflore4723144
Copiah455895
Yazoo455591
Simpson4543117
Wayne442772
Covington432895
Sunflower4299106
Marion4265112
Coahoma4227109
Leake413790
Newton395581
Tishomingo381793
Grenada3775109
Stone365666
Jasper340166
Attala337790
Winston317792
Chickasaw313367
Clay311878
Clarke301195
Calhoun284449
Holmes271289
Smith268952
Yalobusha243747
Tallahatchie231453
Greene224749
Walthall221366
Lawrence217840
Perry213356
Amite209557
Webster205148
Noxubee188642
Montgomery181557
Carroll174441
Jefferson Davis173643
Tunica163239
Benton152639
Kemper144941
Choctaw136527
Claiborne134238
Humphreys131139
Franklin124929
Quitman107528
Wilkinson105939
Jefferson96834
Sharkey65121
Issaquena1957
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 844594

Reported Deaths: 16115
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1160612006
Mobile741651379
Madison53255732
Shelby38313368
Baldwin38061589
Tuscaloosa35996641
Montgomery34473781
Lee25541263
Calhoun22582518
Morgan22441406
Etowah20009517
Marshall18771316
Houston17723425
St. Clair16863358
Limestone16123218
Cullman16032303
Elmore15902294
Lauderdale14945306
Talladega14186299
DeKalb12957269
Walker12011380
Blount10700192
Autauga10512157
Jackson10151194
Coffee9412192
Colbert9325208
Dale9013191
Tallapoosa7248201
Russell707465
Chilton7015170
Escambia6951143
Covington6926195
Franklin6337108
Chambers5778142
Marion5400130
Dallas5283209
Pike5114109
Clarke484986
Lawrence4826129
Winston4777110
Geneva4640136
Bibb434094
Barbour369180
Butler3433100
Marengo342393
Monroe336666
Randolph334067
Pickens333188
Fayette329885
Henry320566
Hale317989
Cherokee316963
Crenshaw260477
Washington256952
Cleburne254360
Lamar251253
Clay250869
Macon244764
Conecuh192762
Coosa184647
Lowndes178168
Wilcox177438
Bullock152545
Perry141840
Sumter139041
Greene130245
Choctaw93228
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