States double down to support women workers


Between the famous gender wage gap and a dead last ranking among developed countries for paid maternity leave, the United States isn’t winning the Olympic gold for female-friendly business practices. While the federal government is scrapping Obama-era changes aimed at promoting pay equity, some states are enacting new protections.


Protections for family

New York requires paid family leave. 

With a law that entitles men and women alike to paid leave, the operative word here is family. Eligible workers get 50% of their salaries (up to $652 a week) for eight weeks. Workers may take leave to bond with a new baby, adopt a child, or care for a sick family member. The law represents a step towards combating the so called “motherhood penalty” while also recognizing fathers and male caretakers. New York is now the fourth state (following California, New Jersey and Rhode Island) to offer similar protections.

Massachusetts and Vermont offer protections to pregnant and nursing workers.

In another attempt to combat the aforementioned penalty to those who are building their careers along with their families, Vermont and Massachusetts expanded protections for pregnant and breastfeeding workers.

Oregon requires greater schedule predictability. 

This law requires larger employers to give new hires more information about their schedules. While the approach may have unintended consequences, it’s based on the fact that unpredictable work schedules make the already difficult task of balancing family commitments especially hard. Companies must also provide workers plenty of advance notice regarding upcoming schedule changes.

Nevada provides time off for domestic violence victims.  

Beyond accommodating growing families and closing the wage gap, Nevada is taking protections to a whole new level. Their new law provides battery and assault victims with protections such as transfers, reassignments, and modified schedules.


Closing the pay gap

18 states raise minimum wage.

The reasons for the pay gap are layered and up for debate. Still, the fact remains: On average, women in the United States earn 80% of what men earn. Increasing the minimum wage in 18 states affects all minimum wage workers’ pocketbooks, and nearly two thirds of these workers are women.

Massachusetts requires equal pay for equal work.

The state joins a growing list and requires equal pay for equal work. Even though the Massachusetts law is considered one of the strongest of its type, it still doesn’t guarantee a true “fix” to the wage gap.

California prohibits questions on income history.

California follows Delaware and New York City and prohibits potential employers from asking applicants such questions. The theory here says asking for income history causes workers to be saddled with their wage gap from job to job.


The bottom line

These new laws attempt to protect women from damages to their career and income based on the simple fact that they often simultaneously build families and careers. We will watch how these new laws play out. In the meantime, it’s worth considering what Vermont (the state with the lowest gap) is doing and how other countries compare on the issue.

Note: Click here for an article (which we relied on heavily for our brief overview) with a more expansive view of each of these new laws.


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