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Minnesota recognizes great strides and setbacks in pay equality

On a day-to-day level, many Minnesota workers may take some of the rights they enjoy for granted. After all, most legal rights are recognized and understood as being inherent and therefore expected even. Though, a great number of the legal protections employees across the state are privileged to haven't actually been in place all that long. And some continue to leave countless workers vulnerable to persisting forms of workplace discrimination.

Thousands of employees each year are victims of a form of gender discrimination enforced through substantial pay discrepancies. Some argue that the tradition of paying female workers less for doing the same jobs as their male counterparts stems from a general lack of appreciation for many of the industries women dominate. Others contend that the market dictates salaries and reinforces apparent differences in pay. Whatever the causes, it is difficult to ignore evidence that privately hired male workers continue to earn approximately 20 percent more than women in Minnesota.

While it continues to be an issue today, pay discrimination was also a major problem decades ago. That is why Minnesota legislatures worked to ensure that female government employees received equal pay under the law. In the 1980s, the Hay system was used to accurately measure the value of any given profession and compare the value to that of another similar job. By gauging work and compensation in this way, state legislatures could see and address issues of pay discrepancies in the government.

The results of this early work are seen today, since municipal, county and state government workers have achieved pay equity. The goal of setting such standards in the state government were to inspire them in the private sector; sadly, though, those ambitions have yet to be realized.

Source: Star Tribune, "Minnesota's pay equity achievement," April 8, 2013

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