The Louisiana Senate on Wednesday narrowly rejected an “Equal Pay for Women” law.
The Senate voted 19-18 for the measure, one vote shy of the 20 needed for passage.
“Women need to be paid the same money for the same work that they do,” said state Sen. Ed Murray, D-New Orleans and sponsor of Senate Bill 153.
Murray said Louisiana ranks next to the bottom in women’s pay compared with that of men. “Women make 69 percent of what a man makes in this state,” he said.
Opponents argued that federal law already requires equal pay and the state law is unnecessary. In addition, they said the law creating the Louisiana Human Rights Commission includes similar language.
“It looks to me like it’s already covered in the law,” said state Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge.
State Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, said he could see the proposition “opening the door for litigation” for small businessmen like himself.
Appel said his wife asked him to vote against SB153 because “it’s not fair to the women who are successful in this world, such as my wife.” She makes more than the men with whom she works and the law could prompt businessmen to pay everyone the same, he said.
State Sen. A.G. Crowe, R-Slidell, questioned the statistics Murray quoted on the salary position of women.
Murray said the legislation had plenty of exceptions for businesses to pay different wages, such as if there’s a seniority or merit system, or whether earnings are based on quantity or quality of production. The measure only outlaws the disparate pay based on sex, he said.
In the 40 states with similar laws, Murray said, “women get paid much better.”
State Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, said the state has adopted legislation covered by federal law plenty of times, including those addressing gun rights and religious freedoms. He said it would do no harm to put the “equal pay for women” provision explicitly in state law.
SB153 would have made it unlawful for an employer hiring 15 or more full-time employees to pay wages to an employee at a rate less than the rate paid another employee of the opposite sex for the same or substantially similar work.
The employee could bring an action against an employer with the Human Rights Commission.
Voting FOR equal pay for women (19): State Sens. Amedee, Broome, Brown, Buffington, Chabert, Dorsey-Colomb, Gallot, Heitmeier, Kostelka, LaFleur, Mills, Morrell, Murray, Nevers, Peterson, G. Smith, Tarver, Thompson and Ward.
Voting AGAINST SB153 (18): President Alario and state Sens. Adley, Allain, Appel, Claitor, Cortez, Crowe, Donahue, Erdey, Johns, Long, Martiny, Morrish, Peacock, Perry, Riser, Walsworth and White.
NOT Voting (2): State Sens. Guillory and J. Smith.