- Associated Press - Tuesday, January 31, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - A conservative lawmaker in Utah is preparing legislation that would call for women to be paid the same as men if their work is similar, saying that the free market alone will not fix the problem.

Sen. Jacob Anderegg says his plan will likely involve offering women a way to file a complaint if they’re paid less than their male counterparts

Anderegg said he was spurred to action in part by thinking of his own kids entering the workforce.

“I couldn’t look my daughter in the eye and say, ‘Hey, you’re only worth three-fourths of what my son is,’” Anderegg said.

The Republican from Lehi says his proposal may also include giving workers information on how much they should be paid based on their experience, education and profession. He said he is still trying to figure out how the plan would specify how to punish companies that have pay disparities.

Nationwide, women earn about 76 cents to 79 cents on the dollar compared with men. Over a 40-year career, the pay gap between men and women adds up to an average of $430,480, according to the Census Bureau.

The proposal comes amid increased awareness and discussion about the issue that includes Natalie Portman’s recent announcement that Ashton Kutcher was paid three times as much as she was for co-starring in 2011’s “No Strings Attached.”

Utah is among only a handful of states that does not have an equal pay law, according to the most recent data available from the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Republican Sen. Deidre Henderson said it would likely be more effective to fix individual problems causing the pay gap, rather than passing such a broad plan. She suggests lawmakers first figure out if the wage gap is caused by discrimination or whether it’s a combination of things, such as women often choosing to work in lower paying fields.

“There are a lot of states that have equal pay laws and there’s still a wage gap,” Henderson said. “I don’t think that’s necessarily the silver bullet to solving the problem.”

Democratic Sen. Jim Dabakis said the equal pay proposal does not go far enough. He said women face discrimination in a variety of situations beyond just pay in the workplace, such as health care and legal issues. He plans to introduce a proposal aimed at approving the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, a broad plan that would simply require equality for women.

Anderegg said he does not think the Equal Rights Amendment is needed, since most of it is already in the 14th amendment.

In the past, Utah has struggled to pass legislation focused on women.

Last year, the state failed to approve such plans, including one that would have made it illegal for private businesses to discriminate against women for breastfeeding and another that would have removed the tax on tampons and other feminine hygiene products.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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