Las Vegas Sun

July 16, 2019

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Nevada struggles to close gender pay gap, study finds

Women in Nevada earn an average of 81 cents for every dollar made by men, according to an analysis published Monday by the American Association of University Women.

The data was released to coincide with Equal Pay Day on Tuesday, which marks how far into the new year women have to keep working on average to match what men earned in 2017. Nevada ranks 22nd in the country, with Utah taking last place at 70 cents on the dollar.

“It’s only decreased a nickel in the past 20 years,” association CEO Kim Churches said of the pay gap. “That type of bottleneck and lack of progress means that we're on the current trajectory for more than 100 years.”

Experts said Monday that the gap is shrinking more slowly than it once was and that the gap gets worse for minority women, bottoming out among Latinas at 54 cents for every man’s dollar. Latinas working full-time in 2017 won’t have made what white men made until Nov. 1 of this year, said Noreen Farrell of the California-based group Equal Rights Advocates. California has one of the lowest pay gaps in the country at 88 cents for each dollar a man makes.

“The average pay gap doesn’t tell the story of all women in this country,” Farrell said. “ The gender wage gap is far worse for women of color, disabled women, mothers, lesbians and workers from the trans and gender nonconforming community, which experiences poverty at four times the rate of the general population.”

The group says the pay gap is “math, not myth,” based on federal census and labor data. The disparity is present across nearly all professions, and averages 80 cents on the dollar for full-time, year-round workers.

Alabama and Mississippi are the only states without some sort of equal pay law on the books, though the group says laws in other states differ broadly. Nevada, for example, does not have a law against using previous pay history in the hiring process, according to the association.

Nevada, four other states and Puerto Rico passed equal pay laws in 2017, according to the group. A law created by Assembly Bill 276 says employers cannot discriminate against employees who voluntarily discuss wages. Another bill signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval creates an annual survey on gender equality in the workplace.

The group notes, however, that Sandoval in 2017 also vetoed a measure that sought to increase safeguards against gender-based discrimination in the workplace. The high penalties and damages in the bill were more appropriate for a court to decide rather than the Nevada Equal Rights Commission, Sandoval said in his veto letter at the time.

“In certain cases, such relief may be called for, but the commission is not the proper venue to make those determinations,” Sandoval said. “Instead, such disputes should be resolved through the courts where a defendant’s due process rights are fully protected and a proper forum for higher stakes litigation can be adjudicated.”

The association says that the bill was comprehensive and that officials should look to the 2019 session. The 2017 session was the last under Sandoval, who is term-limited. Voters will pick a new governor in November.

Advocates are calling for several changes, such as reinstating wage data collection that was halted last year in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

“The pay gap matters to everyone, and it should be a top priority in every community across the country,” Churches said.