HARTFORD, CT — House Democratic leadership shelved plans Wednesday to run a bill that would prohibit employers from asking prospective employees about their salary history.
The bill was introduced by Rep. Derek Slap, D-West Hartford to help increase pay equity for women in the workforce, but it quickly led to partisan name calling and accusations about the intentions of lawmakers who would oppose it.
“It’s still our hope to run that bill soon,” House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said.
He said the opposition expressed by House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, and the comments made by one of his members regarding the legislation had nothing to do with the decision to delay debate.
At a Tuesday press conference, Rep. Matt Lesser, D-Middletown, said objections to the pay equity bills are rooted in two things: “that’s the way we’ve always done it and bigotry. There is no other possible objection to this.’’
Klarides, the first female elected to head the House Republican caucus, was offended by the comments and took them personally.
She said she’s disappointed Aresimowicz would let one of his members call someone who opposes the legislation a bigot.
“The fact that they are using an important issue like pay equity for political purposes to start is disgusting,” Klarides said. “Then they say the only reason you would not want to vote for their crappy bill is because you’re bigots.”
She said name calling the opposition because the bill “you put together does not solve the problem you’re looking to solve” is wrong. She said Democrats are doing this bill for one reason and one reason only — to score “their own political points because they have no vision and no ideas.”
At a press conference in his capitol office Wednesday, Aresimowicz said he reviewed the words used by Lesser and what alarms him is “we’re finding more ways to fight instead of more ways to get along.”
“I ignore a lot of things that are said around the building. I understand people have their political viewpoints and their political parties and at times they have to defend or speak for, I ignore it,” Aresimowicz said.
Lesser said his comments were directed at the concept of equal pay for equal work and not at Klarides. He said he didn’t even know she opposed the legislation until after Tuesday’s press conference.
He said his comments were directed at the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, which had made its opposition to the legislation known.
But Klarides took Lesser’s comments seriously and had her staff put together information on the difference in pay between male and female staffers in both the House Republican and House Democratic caucuses.
She said the Democratic caucus pays their female staffers about 15 percent less than their male staffers. She said in her House Republican caucus, her female staffers are actually paid on average a few thousand more than her male staffers.
The median salary for a male staffer in the House Republican caucus is $46,350 per year and for females its $50,130.
A poster Klarides had made up for outside her capitol office points out that Democrats pay their female staffers about 15 percent less than their male staffers and asks, “Who’s the bigot?”