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9 to 5 Working Women: Don’t Overturn Equal Pay Enforcement

October 27, 2011

MILWAUKEE, Wis. - Today, the Wisconsin Senate may vote on a bill that would repeal the ability for victims of discrimination on the job to take their case to civil court. The Equal Pay Enforcement Act became law in Wisconsin in 2009, and the Milwaukee chapter of 9 to 5 Working Women says the proposal to stop enforcing that law would mean a greater burden of discrimination for women.

Felipa Balderas, a member of 9 to 5, lost her job at Walmart after working there 8.5 years. She is very much against the proposal.

"It's not only us as women or workers that are affected, it's our families as well. Like myself, I have a child, and other people that have children and families, we just want equality and fairness at work for everybody. We want the government to be for everyone and not just for a select few. They're rolling back our rights, and who's going to help us stand up for what we deserve?"

Supporters of Senate Bill 202 say companies are not hiring for fear of lawsuits, although 9 to 5 points out there are no such cases in Wisconsin courts, and that women in the state earn on average only 75 percent of what men are paid. In addition, more than 230,000 Wisconsin households are headed by women, and 30 percent of them are living below the federal poverty level.

Balderas says state lawmakers are pushing a bill that does not create jobs but does roll back opportunities for fairness when workers feel they have been discriminated against.

"The Equal Pay Enforcement Act is about the justice system providing options for women like me, who don't have other opportunities and protections. It won't just affect me - it affects my family, and I'm sure other families in the community, as well. Working women deserve better."

Balderas says she was treated unfairly in the workplace and had the courage to speak up about it. Supporters of the bill believe companies will do more hiring when they are not hampered by the threat of discrimination claims.

According to 9 to 5, in Wisconsin a woman's average annual salary is $33,600, and a man's is $44,800.

Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI