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McAuliffe Proposes Stronger Penalties for Workforce Discrimination

June 6, 2013

Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe on Thursday called on Virginia lawmakers to strengthen current workforce discrimination laws in order to makes sure women in the Commonwealth are compensated fairly and have equal economic opportunities.  

McAuliffe’s proposal for stiffer penalties on employers who break equal pay laws would increase the amount an employee is compensated when she is discriminated against to triple her unpaid wages, a 50% increase over existing law. McAuliffe stated that Virginia “cannot accept this or any form of discrimination” and the change would “send the strong message to women that as Virginians, we want their talents in the workforce, and to businesses, that we attracted and retained the best and brightest workforce with fair laws and strong pro-business policies.”

The new proposal seeks to address the wage gap that women still face in the Commonwealth and Nationwide. Today, as the 50th anniversary of the signing of the Equal Pay Act on June 10 approaches, Virginia women still make just 78 cents to every dollar a man makes. This means that over $14 billion every year of potential earnings by Virginia women is lost to this gap.McAuliffe noted that “these crucial dollars would strengthen our families, could create jobs here in the Commonwealth, and could be invested back into our communities.”

Delegate Eileen Filler-Corn, a participant in the announcement, stated that “strengthening our equal pay laws will set the foundation for more women to have economic and professional opportunities.” She added, “A woman should not be at an automatic disadvantage just because of her gender.”

The announcement also featured Zee Worstell, a Virginia business owner who experienced workforce discrimination which compelled her to start her own business to raise awareness of the issues and help close the wage gap. Zee told her story about finding out that she was being paid less than her male counterparts whom she was outperforming in roles that she had held longer. While recalling that she was “shocked and angered,” she said she realized pay inequity is “not an isolated incident, but rather a widespread problem.” “That’s why we need to have leaders like Terry McAuliffe in the Governor’s office who will put in place policies like these so we can encourage women to succeed,” Worstell added.