Law is aimed at stopping disparities based on gender
Gov. Susana Martinez on Thursday signed into law the Fair Pay for Women Act. It prohibits wage discrimination based on gender.
Rep. Brian Egolf, D-Santa Fe, sponsored the bill to make it easier to bring lawsuits on wage discrimination based on gender. His inspiration was the federal Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
Egolf, right, said the new state law would enable women shortchanged on pay to make a straightforward case in court.
Unlike civil rights laws that require proof of an intent to discriminate, this law would provide a different standard. Egolf said a woman would have to show that an employer paid her less than a man in the same job, but not that there was intentional discrimination.
Exceptions to the fair pay act would be seniority, merit systems or jobs that measure earnings by quantity or quality of production.
Egolf said a woman claiming a pay disparity based on gender typically must sue a corporation, not a workplace manager. It is difficult in that arena to prove there was an intent to discriminate, he said.
Egolf said having a state fair pay act would make life easier for women who saw the federal courts as their only avenue for a just result. But under the federal system, he said, a woman in Raton could draw a federal judge 450 miles away in Las Cruces. Federal claims of salary inequity could be blocked by sheer logistics in a state as large as New Mexico, he said.
Equitable pay between genders for the same work became a national cause because of Ledbetter's case.
She filed a discrimination lawsuit against Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., claiming she was underpaid as a production supervisor compared to men in the same job at a plant in Alabama.
A federal jury awarded her more than $3 million, but the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007 overturned that verdict in a 5-4 vote. The majority disallowed Ledbetter's award because they said she missed a deadline in filing her complaint.
Congress later approved a law to add flexibility to the 180-day statute of limitations for filing a gender discrimination lawsuit based on pay.
New Mexico's Fair Pay For Women Act would allow two years for someone to bring a lawsuit after the last day of her employment.