Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie
Sen. Cathy Osten (Christine Stuart / ctnewsjunkie)

HARTFORD, CT — The Senate gave final passage Friday to a bill that would prohibit employers from asking an employee about their pay history.

The bill passed 35-1. Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, was the only one to vote against the bill. It had sailed through the House 142-4 on April 19. The bill now heads to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s desk.

The bill is titled “An Act Concerning Pay Equity” because it’s thought it will help women receive higher wages throughout their career even though it applies to everyone regardless of gender.

Sen. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, said women make 83 cents on the dollar doing the same job as men.

“Not only do they have lower wages for the same job, but jobs populated by women like child care have a segregated lower wage,” Bye said. “Overall women are really having a hard time keeping up.”

She said women have to work 11 years longer before they can retire and it’s all grounded in the pay gap that starts after college. They add up over a lifetime.

Sen. Heather Somers, R-Groton, said she does believe it puts employers in a “little bit of a pickle” the way it’s written.

Somers, who was a partner in a medical device manufacturer, said figuring out whether a company can afford to hire someone is a more “nebulous” question. She said if she can’t ask what a person made in salary and benefits then it might be hard to determine whether the person would even be interested in the job offer.

Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, said the bill was drafted with business representatives as part of the conversation.

She said the business lobby has expressed support for the legislation.

Osten said the reason the bill prohibits asking the salary amount is because women often take breaks in their employment and don’t rise to the top of a pay scale or they might have taken a break from their work life to take care of elderly parents or a newborn child.

She said often it is the woman that’s required to take the time off to be a caregiver.

“This bill would not allow you to ask what the employment package costs,” Osten said. “But you can say ‘did you have stock options?”

Sen. Paul Formica, R-East Lyme, said he doesn’t believe the bill is necessary, but is happy to support it.

Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, said it prevents a low-ball salary offer to someone who is already underpaid.

He said it doesn’t stop someone from disclosing the information it simply helps an employee possibly attain a higher wage if they were subject to pay discrimination earlier in their lives.

Markley, the only one to vote against the bill, said he believes the differences people experience in pay have more to do with “the differences in people” than they do with “our gender or race.”

He said when they move to equalize pay between the sexes they’re only going to impact different people in different ways depending on their experience.

“I’m not motivated purely by a paycheck or a I wouldn’t be here, I guess,” Markley said.

As such, Markley said this legislation would benefit him more than it might benefit a woman. He said he doesn’t believe the bill will achieve pay equity between the sexes.

Connecticut Women’s Education and Legal Fund (CWEALF) Executive Director Kate Farrar said the use of salary history in the job application process perpetuates a cycle of lower earnings for women that begins just one year after college graduation.

“By prohibiting the use of salary histories, we are one step closer to narrowing the gender wage gap in our state,” Farrar said.

Following the vote, Malloy applauded the action.

“This is a major victory for Connecticut families,” Malloy said. “It is unacceptable that in 2018, Hispanic women earn just 54 cents and black women earn just 63 cents for every dollar a white man earns. This inequity is perpetuated by the practice of asking for salary history during the hiring process – which can disproportionately ensure that women who were underpaid at their first job continue to be underpaid throughout their careers, creating a cycle of poverty and causing real harm to families.