AUGUSTA – Bipartisan majorities in both the Maine House and Senate have passed equal pay protections for people who face pay discrimination due to their race. The legislation expands on and strengthens existing protections for workers under the Maine Equal Pay Act.
LD 1703, sponsored by Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, makes a simple but important addition to the Maine Equal Pay Law: it prohibits unequal pay on the basis of race, just as the law has long prohibited unequal pay on the basis of sex. Under this important change, workers who face pay discrimination on the basis of race can seek fair pay in court.
“The wage gap has persisted for so long in Maine and around the country because pay decisions are shrouded in secrecy, and because of systemic and individual discrimination against people of color. This legislation will help close the racial wealth gap, not only ensuring that people of color – especially women of color – do not lose out on hundreds of thousands of dollars over the course of their careers, but also alleviate the psychological harms that come with persistent inequality,” said Speaker of the House Rachel Talbot Ross.
“Maine’s Equal Pay Act is currently an important protection for women who, despite performing work with comparable skill, effort, and training as their male colleagues, are paid less,” said ACLU of Maine Legal Director Carol Garvan. “Unequal pay on the basis of race has devastating consequences for working people and their families. Mainers of color are twice as likely to experience food insecurity compared to white Mainers and are much more likely to have trouble paying for health care. Income disparities for Mainers of color fall particularly harshly on Black immigrant communities.”
Since 2000, the wage gap between men and women workers has remained stubbornly constant, with women receiving roughly 80 cents for every dollar a male employee receives. The numbers are worse when factoring in race and ethnicity: Black women are paid 65 cents for every dollar a white man is paid and Hispanic women are paid 69 cents on the dollar. The gender and race pay gaps perpetuate income inequality and ensure that, no matter how hard women and people of color work, they cannot catch up to their white male peers.
The ACLU of Maine applauds the bipartisan majorities that passed LD 1703 and calls on Governor Janet Mills to sign the legislation into law.