Mississippi remains the only state in the nation without equal pay protections.
UPDATE March 30, 11 a.m.: HB 770 was adopted by the House and the Senate.
Prior to the 2022 Legislative session, the idea of equal pay legislation gained traction because Mississippi is currently the only state in the nation without state level equal pay protections for women. Two bills were introduced and conference was invited on House Bill 770 and Senate Bill 2451.
Lawmakers filed the original conference report for House Bill 770 on Monday. On Tuesday the report was recommitted for further conference. Conferees refiled a conference report later that day.
Both chambers adopted the conference report for HB 770 on Wednesday.
“Today, the Legislature has taken a critical step forward for empowering women by passing a law promoting equal pay for equal work for Mississippi women,” Attorney General Lynn Fitch said. “When Governor Reeves signs this bill into law, we will join the rest of the nation in promoting the basic fairness of equal pay. We will take a giant leap forward in closing the twenty-seven percent pay gap – a pay gap that makes it harder for working women and their families, that leads to young Mississippi women taking their talents beyond our borders, and that perpetuates the cycle of poverty in our State.”
Representatives Angela Cockerham (I), Jason White (R), and Mark Tullos (R) served as the House conferees for the Mississippi Equal Pay for Equal Work Act. Senate conferees included State Senators Brice Wiggins (R), Nicole Boyd (R), and David Parker (R).
The conference report states that:
“No employer may pay an employee a wage at a rate less than the rate at which an employee of the opposite sex in the same establishment is paid for equal work on a job, the performance of which requires equal skill, education, effort and responsibility, and which is performed under similar working conditions, except where payment is made pursuant to differential based on:
(a) A seniority system;
(b) A merit system;
(c) A system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or
(d) Any other factor other than sex.”
If passed, it will take effect and be enforced as of July 1, 2022. Lawmakers are expected to take up the conference report some time this week.
A group of bi-partisan lawmakers in the State have been pushing for a piece of equal pay legislation to pass over the last couple of years.
In September, the Mississippi Senate Labor Committee held a meeting and heard from a panel of speakers on the importance of equal pay legislation. Hosted by the Mississippi Black Women’s Roundtable (BWR), lawmakers heard from national activist Lilly Ledbetter, the National Women’s Law Center, United Way, and other equal rights advocates.
“This affects women from all walks of life. I’ve met Dr.’s in New York who were getting paid only a one third to their male counterparts. I’ve spoken with lawyers who can’t make partner, but it’s really a sad case for our low wage working women,” Lily Ledbetter said. “You can control equal pay in your state better than the federal government can.”
In August of 2020, the Chair of the Mississippi Association of Democratic Chairs released statement on behalf of the state’s Democratic County Executive Committee chairs discussing the urgent need for an equal pay law in the State.
“We call upon all of our state’s leaders to make a commitment to urge public and private sector employers to begin the process of immediately correcting these historic inequalities. Although we will still be the last state to ratify such a law, it is necessary now more than ever,” said Jacqueline Amos, Chair of the Mississippi Association of Democratic Chairs.
In January 2022, following the original passage of HB 770 in the House, State Representative Angela Cockerham told Y’all Politics that she was thankful for the support and overjoyed by the passage of the bill.
“This is going to be so transformative for the state of Mississippi,” Cockerham said.
Attorney General Lynn Fitch has also been a long-time advocate of equal pay legislation in Mississippi.
“Mississippi is the only state in the country without an equal pay law on the books. The premise of equal pay for equal work is not a Democrat issue or a Republican issue. It is a basic issue of human fairness,” AG Fitch told Y’all Politics back in September. “It is a public declaration that women matter. Mississippi’s House has passed equal pay legislation with an overwhelming and bipartisan vote, and so has the Senate. But we still have not been able to get it passed into law, and I will keep talking about this issue until we join the rest of the country and until we show women in Mississippi that we recognize their equal work is worth equal pay. It is time to catch up, Mississippi.”
You can read the refiled conference report for House Bill 770 below.