Saturday, December 1, 2018

Illinois Expands Equal Pay Protections -- But Only for "African-American" Employees

Earlier this week, the Illinois legislature overrode Republican Governor Bruce Rauner's veto, thereby expanding the state's equal pay legislation to prohibit pay discrimination against African-American employees. The reason for Rauner's veto? The bill didn't go far enough. As explained in Rauner's veto statement:
The intent of this legislation is to put into place enhanced statutory mandates which would hold employers that engage in unlawful pay and wage practices against African-Americans accountable. However, wage discrimination is not limited to African-Americans, and other racial and ethnic groups are suffering similar harms in their employment. They, too, are subject to unequal compensation and salaries and are equally deserving of relief. I would be remiss if I did not extend the substantial benefits granted African-Americans under this bill to all racial and ethnic protected classes.
Thus, Rauner stated that he would approve of legislation prohibiting wage discrimination based on "race, color, national origin, or ancestry."

Despite the Illinois legislators' presumably good intentions, Governor Rauner's concerns have merit. The wage gap between the baseline of white men and other protected groups is often cited as the basis for equal pay legislation, but African-American men earn more than Hispanic men. By that measure, legislators should be more concerned about wage discrimination against Hispanics. And even if discrimination against white men is relatively uncommon, legislators generally recognize that race and sex should be neutral factors, so discrimination against white men should be no less unlawful than discrimination against African Americans.

This blog reflects the views solely of its author. It is not intended, and should not be regarded, as legal advice on how to analyze any particular set of facts.