Lawmakers give second-round approval to bill aimed at wage discrimination

Senators amended and advanced a bill from select file April 3 intended to combat wage discrimination in Nebraska.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist28' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks'>Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks</a>
Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks

LB217, as introduced by Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, would prohibit an employer from discharging or retaliating against any employee because he or she inquired about, discussed or disclosed comparative compensation information for the purpose of determining whether an employer is compensating employees in a manner that provides equal pay for equal work.

Pansing Brooks said the bill was modeled after legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate. The measure is important, she said, because women continue to earn considerably less than men for doing the same work—earning 80 percent of what their male counterparts make nationally.

Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen, chairperson of the Business and Labor Committee, offered an amendment on select file, which he said was a compromise resulting from a series of meetings with stakeholders.

“[The amendment] addresses concerns brought to myself and Sen. Pansing Brooks following general file debate,” Hansen said.

The amendment, adopted 28-0, clarifies that the bill would not apply to employers that are exempt from the Nebraska Fair Employment Practice Act or create an obligation for any employer or employee to disclose information regarding wages, benefits or other compensation.

The amendment also would prohibit disclosure or dissemination of:
• information to a competitor;
• proprietary or other privileged information; or
• information to the general public or by an employee during work hours.

Pansing Brooks supported the amendment, although she acknowledged that it would result in a less expansive provision than originally intended.

“Additions are not always perfect to any bill, but I believe the art of compromise means that perfection can’t be the enemy of good,” she said. “So, I think we are moving the needle in Nebraska … [and] I do believe that there is some value in moving the needle a little bit.”

Following adoption of the Hansen amendment, lawmakers advanced the bill to final reading by voice vote.

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