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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Op-Ed by Lt. Governor Candidate Joe Campos: National Equal Pay Day

JoeCamposB110 This is an op-ed by Democratic Lt. Governor candidate Joe Campos:

April 20 is recognized as National Equal Pay Day, the day in 2010 which signifies how far into 2010 a woman must work to equal the pay earned by a man in 2009. A woman must work almost 16 months to earn what a man can earn in 12 months. It is an inconvenient truth that in 2010, women are still subject to pay inequity.

Early this year while I was campaigning for Lieutenant Governor, during a question and answer session in Espanola, a woman asked me as a state legislator and a candidate for Lieutenant Governor, "What can you do to ensure equal pay for women?" This is an issue that has personal relevance in that I am a small business owner and my wife Christina works as an administrator at the Guadalupe County Hospital.

I accepted the challenge to educate myself with regard to the issue of equal pay and to identify what we can do in New Mexico to make progress towards pay equity.

According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, in 2009 women earned only 80% of what men earned while Hispanic women earned only 60% of what men earned. What makes this fact especially meaningful is to consider that in this economy, many households require two incomes in order to make ends meet resulting in more women in the work force. If women are inequitably compensated, the whole family is disadvantaged.

What I learned is that according to the National Conference of State Legislatures, New Mexico is one of eleven states that do not have explicit equal pay laws for women. The current language of Chapter 28, Article 1, Section 7 of the New Mexico state statutes states that employers are prohibited to "....discriminate in matters of compensation, terms, conditions or privileges of employment against any person otherwise qualified because of race, age, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, physical or mental handicap or serious medical condition..."

The statute falls far short of clearly protecting women and other groups in that to "discriminate in matters of compensationation" is undefined. To correct this, I introduced HB 288 in the 2010 regular session that explicitly prohibits "...providing a rate of compensation to employees of a group within one of these categories that is different than the rate of compensation provided to a different or opposite group within the same category for equal work that requires equal skill, effort and responsibility..." This bill was passed unanimously in the House. Unfortunately, time ran out in the legislative session before the Senate could act on the bill. This legislation should be on the legislative agenda for 2011.

At the federal level, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and the recently enacted Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act establish criteria for equal pay. Although these laws address pay equity, obviously wage discrimination still exists.

The question remains, what can be done if a woman or any other member of a group subject to discrimination believes that they are being inequitably compensated? First, one should determine if there are employer policies and procedures that provides a process for complaint . Addressing the problem directly with your employer may be the best solution. If the employer is not cooperative, the employee can contact the Department of Workforce Solutions at (800) 566-9471 for assistance in filing a complaint under the New Mexico Human Rights statutes. The initial call will be treated as confidential. With regard to protection under federal law, filing with the state automatically triggers a dual filing with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. There is no charge for filing a complaint or for a complaint investigation, if an investigation is warranted. If the commission rules in your favor, the commission has the authority to award actual damages, e.g., back pay, front pay, and compensatory damages.

The quest for equal pay can be fought one case at a time, but what is really needed is a cultural shift. Employers have in the past made the case that according to research, customers value interactions with white male employees higher than with other employee groups and therefore white male employees should be higher valued and compensated. Women, and other groups, are challenging this misperception and proving in the workplace that they can perform at the highest levels.

Equal pay is not just an issue for employers to address. Each and every one of us, acting as consumers of goods and services must acknowledge that performance counts independent of race, age, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, sex, physical or mental handicap or medical condition. Whenever you experience good service or good performance, acknowledge it, whether it is a slip of paper in a comment box at a local restaurant or a positive phone call to management regarding one of their employees. Employers will have the feedback that performance is what counts with the customer and the employer would be motivated to reward performance. The cumulative effect of positive performance feedback will help shrink the wage gap.

Pay equity is a human rights issue that should concern every citizen. We as a society must embrace equality and equity for as Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

This is an op-ed guest blog by Democratic Lt. Governor candidate Joe Campos. If you'd like to submit a piece for consideration as a guest blog, contact me by clicking on the Email Me link at the upper left-hand corner of the page. To see a collection of previous guest blogs, visit our archive.

April 20, 2010 at 12:10 AM in 2010 NM Lt. Governor Race, Economy, Populism, Guest Blogger, Hispanic Issues, Joe Campos, Minority Issues, NM Legislature 2010, Women's Issues | Permalink

Comments

Ooops, great cause, but 4/20 is already associated with a very different kind of activism and cult following :)

Posted by: Art Jaquez | Apr 20, 2010 1:30:28 PM

But pot smoking and legal weed affects only a small portion of people.

Equal pay is a waaay bigger issue and impacts everyone.

Thanks for your efforts on the issue of equal pay, Joe.

Posted by: bg | Apr 20, 2010 3:37:43 PM

Yes, of course BG, but my concern is that we would not want something about this issue to inadvertently become a self inflicted point of ridicule, as the Tea Baggers did to themselves with their initial name.

Posted by: Art Jaquez | Apr 21, 2010 10:37:04 AM

Ask Joe Campos how much he pays the women that work for him. Min wage? Less?

Posted by: Jeff S | Apr 22, 2010 4:42:14 PM

How much does Joe pay the women who work for him Jeff S. asks. Unlike some other candidates who pay to employ competent staff, Joe's highly qualified staff is mostly comprised of volunteers who care about electing the right candidate for Lt. Gov.

Posted by: johnnie | Apr 26, 2010 5:47:56 PM