Lawmakers push to close wage gap in S.C.

Published: Jul. 11, 2019 at 9:29 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Malissa Burnette has been practicing law for more than four decades.

She is a partner at Burnette Shutt & McDaniel and is a certified specialist in employment and labor law.

“Many times over the years, I’ve had men call me and tell me they want a woman lawyer,” Burnette said. “I ask why and they say, ‘It’s because you won’t charge me as much.’ I say, ‘Yes, I will.’”

Burnette has represented clients in wage disputes. She said things have slowed down when it comes to bridging the wage gap.

“Women are not catching up to men and there’s a huge pay gap,” Burnette said.

According to the Division of Research at the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, white women earn 74 cents on every dollar earned by white men in the Palmetto State. African-American women earn 53 cents on every dollar.

Burnette said there are loopholes in the federal Equal Pay Act that allow this wage gap to happen.

“Men and women can be paid unequally with one defense – any factor other than sex,” she noted. “It doesn’t have to be business related.”

Lawmakers introduced bipartisan bills earlier this year that aim to make pay based on factors like effort, responsibility, and skill. The “Act to Establish Equity” would also ban the use of salary history and allow pay transparency without backlash from their employers.

The South Carolina Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (SC WREN) said the pay gap impacts everyone -- not just women.

“Pay is fundamental to economic stability and security in their lives. It’s not just about women and their security but women supporting their communities and really helping South Carolina thrive,” said Ashley Lidow, the Associate Director of Policy and Government with SC WREN.

Both bills are in committee.

Another bill was filed in the House that would ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in South Carolina. The amendment aims to guarantee equal rights for every American citizen regardless of gender.

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