The Minnesota Department of Human Rights (MDHR) joined a nationwide coalition of government agencies, led by California, in support of a lawsuit seeking to protect the collection of demographic information critical to ensuring equal pay.
The lawsuit arose following a 2017 federal administration reversal of a program that would have required the collection of pay data from private employers with over 100 employees. The information would be used as part of the effort to address the persistent wage gap between men, women, and people of color. In an amicus brief in National Women’s Law Center, et al. v. Office of Management and Budget, et al., the coalition explains how the information would be beneficial to government investigators and prosecutors working to tackle pay discrimination.
“When women, especially women of color, are paid less for doing the same job as men, it undermines our value as Minnesotans to treat everyone with dignity,” said Minnesota Department of Human Rights Commissioner Rebecca Lucero. “In joining this lawsuit, we recommit ourselves to equal pay for all Minnesotans. This data would help Minnesota businesses ensure their employees are being treated equally and help agencies like ours enforce anti-discrimination laws.”
Inequality in earnings between men, women and people of color is a widespread, persistent feature of the labor market. In 2016, women in Minnesota still only earned approximately 83 percent of what men earned. For women of color, the pay gap is worse. Black and Native women earned approximately 59 percent of what white men earned and Latinas earned approximately 54 percent of what white men earned in 2016.
Federal law directs the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to work with Fair Employment Practices Agencies (FEPA), like MDHR, to investigate and resolve claims of employment discrimination. In addition, federal law specifically provides for FEPAs to have the right to access certain information collected by the EEOC in relation to efforts to tackle employment discrimination. As a result, the agencies’ efforts to address pay discrimination are directly affected by the Federal Administration’s decision to halt the collection of crucial employment data.
In filing the amicus brief, MDHR joins the attorneys general of California, Delaware, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, and the District of Columbia. The coalition also includes state and local civil rights agencies. State civil rights agencies in the coalition include the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, Illinois Department of Human Rights, Maine Human Rights Commission, Maryland Commission on Civil Rights, Nevada Equal Rights Commission, Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, Rhode Island Commission for Human Rights, and Washington State Human Rights Commission. At the local level, the coalition includes the Baltimore Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement, New York City Commission on Human Rights and Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations.