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On Equal Pay Day, we look at how Maine’s congressional delegation wants to address the gender pay gap

Today is Equal Pay Day. Equal Pay Day highlights the wage gap in the United States between men and women. On average, women earn about 78% of what men earn. Equal Pay Day is today because the average woman would have to add all of the wages she’s earned between today and the beginning of 2015 to the wages she earned in 2014 in order to have the same amount of wages that the average man earned just in 2014.

Maine’s U.S. Senators, Susan Collins (R) and Angus King (I), have co-sponsored bills that prohibit retaliation against workers for discussing how much money they make. These bills would address one of the reasons why pay discrimination persists in the United States. Many women do not know that they make less money than men who do the same work as them because employers discourage employees from speaking about their wages.

Today, Senator Collins co-sponsored the Workplace Advancement Act. Earlier this year, Senators King and Collins both co-sponsored the End Pay Discrimination Through Information Act. The End Pay Discrimination Through Information Act would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees because they “inquired about, discussed, or disclosed” their own wages or the wages of other employees. The Workplace Advancement Act contains a similar protection for employees but is narrower and less protective of employees. The Workplace Advancement Act would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees because they “inquired about, discussed, or disclosed comparative compensation information for the purpose of determining whether the employer is compensating an employee in a manner that provides equal pay for equal work.”

These bills do not go as far as another bill that Maine Congresswoman Chellie Pingree is co-sponsoring—The Paycheck Fairness Act. Rep. Pingree issued a press release today to urge passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act. In addition to retaliation protections similar to the protections in the bills Collins and King have co-sponsored, the Paycheck Fairness Act would (1) require “employers to show that pay disparity is truly related to job performance, not gender;” (2) strengthen “remedies for women experiencing pay discrimination”; and (3) empower “women in the workplace through a grant program to strengthen salary negotiation and other workplace skills,” the press release said.

Because the Workplace Advancement Act that Senators Collins and other Republicans have co-sponsored would do less to protect employees from pay discrimination than the Paycheck Fairness Act, some Democrats who support the Paycheck Fairness Act have questioned the seriousness of the Workplace Advancement Act. “I think it would be great news if Republicans were finally willing to listen to working families and join Democrats to make sure women get pay equity,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.). “But Republicans will need to put real solutions on the table — and so far, they are unfortunately falling short.”

As far as we can tell, Maine’s other Congressional Representative, Bruce Poliquin, has not co-sponsored any legislation designed to address pay discrimination.