Iowa's Gender Pay Gap: Why And What To Do About It

Workplace Discrimination Lawyers

Iowa’s gender pay gap is one of the widest in the nation. According to the AAUW, on average, women in Iowa make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes. That number is well below the national average and places Iowa at number 41 in a ranking of the 50 states and Washington D.C.

Factors At Work

Employers give a lot of reasons for the gender pay gap, but really the gender pay gap is a result of gender discrimination – pure and simple – both historical and current discrimination. Because women have historically been paid less than men they are often willing to accept lower pay than a man would, however courts have made it clear that woman’s willingness to accept a lower pay rate does not make it legal to pay her less for the same work.

This factor is compounded by the fact that many women don’t know they are being paid less than the men they work with. Many employers prohibit employees from sharing their salaries allowing them to keep unequal pay a secret. Although Iowa passed its Equal Pay Act in 2009, and it is one of the strongest Equal Pay Acts in the nation, it requires that employees file a complaint with the Iowa Civil Rights Commission or file a lawsuit in order to remedy unfair pay. As it stands today, there are no specific laws in Iowa that prevent an employer from requiring his employees to keep their wages a secret from their fellow employees. Workplace discrimination lawyers see firsthand that this lack of transparency may cause female employees to be unaware of discriminatory pay practices happening in their workplace.

What You Can Do

Whether you are a woman in Iowa feeling that pay gap, or anyone anywhere who feels the weight of this discrimination, there are steps you can take to make change.

1)    Advocate for Yourself

Speak with your employer or your fellow employees to find out if your salary or wages is commensurate with your male colleagues. Negotiate your salary, raises, and bonuses with confidence, knowing that the U.S. Equal Pay Act, Title VIII and Iowa’s Equal Pay Act protect women from being paid unfairly. Iowa and federal law also protect you from retaliation from your employer for bringing this up. If you suspect unfair pay practices, here are a few things you should know

2)    Advocate for All

Starting with your own negotiations, continue having this conversation. Speak with other women in your industry or community and encourage them to speak up for themselves. Unequal pay practices occur in every field and women in leadership positions may be at a higher risk of being paid unfairly. If you are in a position to set salaries in your organization, review women’s pay and advocate for equal pay among men and women.

3)    Legislative Change

Educate yourself about local or state laws on the ballot that further protect employees from wage discrimination. Speak with your legislators, state and federal, about laws that encourage transparency and honesty in wage practices. At the federal level, every year, a bill is introduced that would require employer transparency so that people know when they are being paid unfairly, but every year corporate employers oppose the bill and it has never passed.  Contact your representatives and encourage them to support this bill. Iowa could enact a similar law and so you should also contact your state representatives and encourage them to put forth this type of legislation.

4)    Seek Legal Assistance

If you discover that you have been paid less than your male colleagues, we can help. We have experience as workplace discrimination lawyers and have successfully represented women in court who were being paid unfairly.

If you need a lawyer to represent you, please call us for a free consultation at (319) 826-2250 or fill out our contact form.

How Do I Know If My Employer Is Treating Me Fairly?

Workplace Discrimination Lawyers

Workplace discrimination lawyers represent employees who have been mistreated, paid unequally or discriminated against because of their race, gender, sexual orientation, age or religion. Fair treatment in the workplace is not a perk or benefit. In a lot of cases, it’s the law. There are legal ramifications to an employer treating his or her employees unfairly because they have differences. If you are feeling mistreated or wondering if your employer is legally acting fairly, here are a few areas you should consider.

Fair Payment For Work

A lot of workplace issues involve employee wages and benefits. Laws regarding minimum wage, equal pay, overtime payment and more regulate how an employer can pay their employees. Employers who do not comply with these laws may be held liable for wage theft. The Department of Labor outlines many of the federal laws governing fair pay concerns. Iowa also has a specific law addressing wages known as the Iowa Wage Payment Collection Act.

Gender Gap

While being treated equally does not always mean being treated the same, it does mean being given the same opportunities with the same intentions. This may look different in specific situations or for specific individuals. However, the general law remains the same: equal pay for equal work. Time and again we see women, doing the same job with the same responsibilities and qualifications as their male counterparts but being paid less. This is illegal and, as workplace discrimination lawyers, we have brought these cases to court and won.

Policies and Outcomes

From hiring to departure, and all the days in between, employers cannot have different rules for different employees based on race, gender, sexual orientation, age or religion. Employers do not have to treat every employee the same and always act fairly towards every employee, but an employer cannot treat an employee different because they are in a “protected class” meaning because of their race, their gender, their age, the sexual orientation or their religion.

Channels to Be Heard

Part of being treated fairly is the opportunity and freedom to speak up when an employee feels uncomfortable, harassed or treated unfairly. Laws that prohibit discrimination also prohibit an employer from retaliating against an employee because they make a complaint about discrimination. This includes making a complaint to the employer, making a complaint to the EEOC or the Iowa Civil Rights Commission or filing a lawsuit.

Harassment

The stories of sexual harassment in the news are shocking for some but for many women across many industries these stories are not news. They are all too aware of the pervasiveness of sexual harassment in the workplace. While sexual harassment is far too common, it is ILLEGAL.

Every employee deserves to be treated fairly by his or her employer. A workplace should be a place of growth and equality. If you have questions or feel that you are being treated unfairly in your workplace, contact a workplace discrimination lawyer today.  You can call us at (319) 826-2250 or fill out our contact form.

Girls Who Read Become Women Who Lead

We are pretty excited here at Ann Brown Legal to be launching our annual charitable initiative we have decided to call Girls Who Read Become Women Lead. Every year we will donate a book that we believe has an empowering message for young girls to each of the elementary schools in the Cedar Rapids Community School District to use in their library. This initiative is near and dear to the hearts of all of us at the firm because we are all avid readers. We are also committed to seeing the girls in our community reach their full potential and believe that providing access to books featuring strong female characters or strong messages for young girls is a step in the right direction.

A recent study conducted at Dartmouth College found that 57% of children's books published in the United States featured male lead characters and only 36.5% featured female lead characters. The researchers found that these disparities "contribute to a sense of unimportance among girls." But many authors and publishers are committed to changing this and Girls Who Read Become Women Who Lead is about making sure that girls in Cedar Rapids have access to these books.

Unfortunately, Cedar Rapids Public Schools are grossly underfunded, which results in limited resources available for expanding, or even maintaining, school libraries. We hope to help in some small way and potentially inspire others to do the same by donating books to school libraries in need.

This year the book we have chosen is Strong is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves, by  Kate T. Parker. The book features amazing photographs of girls playing, fighting, living and loving along with powerful messages from each girl. One message from 12-year-old Kylie is: "Some girls never lose. They only learn and come back stronger." We were inspired by the book and reminded just to be ourselves, and we hope that the girls who get to read the book feel the same. 

 

Happy reading to our future leaders!