A Republican-backed bill seeking to reduce Nevada’s wage gap between men and women received conditional support from women’s groups and Democrats on Monday.
Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson sponsored SB 167, which was reviewed by lawmakers during a hearing Monday afternoon in the Senate Committee on Judiciary. The Las Vegas Republican said the proposal will empower the Nevada Equal Rights Commission to levy fines up to $10,000 and strengthen protections against discriminatory employment practices.
The bill includes provisions allowing for up to two years of back pay and prohibits employers from punishing workers who ask about wages.
Democratic Sen. Pat Spearman, who introduced similar legislation in SB 190 last week, testified during the hearing and commended Roberson on a “good-faith effort” to address the problem. She promised to sign on as a co-sponsor if the bill was amended to include a tiered system of fines for repeat offenders, increased the statute of limitations, included compensatory damages and changed several definitions.
Roberson said he wanted to work with Democrats and interested groups in crafting a widely-supported bill.
“I want to work in a bipartisan manner to get as many votes as I can,” he said.
A number of women’s groups and progressive advocacy organizations testified in favor of the bill on the condition it was amended. Nevada’s Women Lobby representative Marlene Lockard praised Spearman and Roberson for working together.
“We are delighted this is a bipartisan effort,” she said during the hearing.
Equal rights commission director Don Soderberg presented a number of amendments to the bill, including changes to the fine system, that they said would help the agency practically implemented the program.
Spearman said the provisions in her bill, which is sponsored or co-sponsored by every Democrat in the Legislature, should be included in law and that the issue of wage discrimination shouldn’t be compromised.
“Just saying someone is satisfied does not make them whole,” she said. “People who have been wronged need to be made whole.”