Conversations about women’s economic security tend to focus on the wage gap. And it’s true that wage discrimination has deep and long-lasting financial ramifications for women, especially working mothers. But gender discrimination in the workplace doesn’t end with the wage gap. A lack of job-protected family leave typically impacts female workers more, since women are far more likely to serve as primary caregivers in their families.[i] Only 12 states require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant and nursing women.[ii] And even fewer states provide access to flexible work schedules.
Here are the five states that are leading the way on women’s economic security:
5) Connecticut (Wage Gap: 78 cents per $1)
Connecticut was the first state to pass a paid sick days law. The law allows most full-time and part-time employees to earn up to five paid sick days a year, and use their leave for their own illness as well as their child’s and spouse’s. In order to protect employees, the law includes a strict anti-retaliation provision. It also provides up to 16 weeks of unpaid, job-protected family and medical leave, which is a full month longer than federal law provides. Finally, the state provides workplace protections for nursing mothers and reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers.
4) California (Wage Gap: 84 per $1)
Of the three states that provide paid family leave, California’s is the most expansive. (The other two states are New Jersey and Rhode Island.) California provides up to $1057 a week for six weeks for an employee to “care for a seriously ill child, spouse, parent, or registered domestic partner, or to bond with a new child.” The program is funded through employee-paid payroll taxes.
3) New York (Wage Gap: 86 cents per $1)
New York governor Andrew Cuomo has championed the Women’s Equality Act since 2013. The legislation would strengthen the state’s current equal pay statute, expand protections for employees who are sexually harassed in the workplace, and outlaw workplace discrimination based on parental status. The legislative package has failed to pass the state legislature due to a controversial provision that would strengthen reproductive rights, and which supporters have been reluctant to drop.
2) Vermont (Wage Gap: 83 cents per $1)
Vermont goes beyond addressing just wage discrimination with its “Act Relating to Equal Pay.” It includes wage disclosure protections, and requires state contractors to provide written clarification of their compliance with the equal pay provision. But it also includes a provision – the first of its kind in the country – that guarantees workers the right to request a flexible work schedule, and requires employers to respond in good faith. Additionally, the law strengthened nursing mother protections, and established a paid family leave study commission.
1) Minnesota (Wage Gap: 80 cents per $1)
Minnesota’s Women’s Economic Security Act (WESA) took bold steps towards women’s economic equality. The bill increased Minnesota’s pregnancy leave to 12 weeks; expanded family leave to include in-laws and grandparents; and provided safety leave for survivors of domestic abuse, sexual assault, and stalking. It strengthened protections and accommodations for pregnant workers and increased support to “recruit, prepare, place and retain women in non-traditional occupations and apprenticeships.” And it included protections from retribution for employees who disclose their wages.
These five states are at the forefront of the push towards women's economic security because of their comprehensive approaches to ensuring workplace equality and a strong work-life balance.
[i] National Partnership for Women and Families. (April 2012). Paid Family and Medical Leave: An Overview. Available at http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/work-family/paid-leave/paid-family-and-medical-leave.pdf
[ii] National Partnership for Women and Families. (December 2014). Reasonable Accommodations for Pregnant Workers: State and Local Laws. Available at http://www.nationalpartnership.org/research-library/workplace-fairness/pregnancy-discrimination/reasonable-accommodations-for-pregnant-workers-state-laws.pdf