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Poloncarz calls on IDA to address wage inequality

Ashley Hirtzel

Officials in Erie County observed National Equal Pay Day Tuesday. The symbolic day aims to draw attention to the issue of income inequality between working men and women.

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families women on average are paid seventy-seven cents on the dollar paid to man in the same job.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz says he is calling on the Erie County Industrial Development Agency to adopt a policy requiring applicants for tax incentives to prove they pay their female employees the same as male employees in similar positions with similar experience. He says he believes if businesses want a tax break they must prove they treat their female employees the same as male employees.

“We should not have to be here today, because 51 years ago President John F. Kennedy signed into law the Equal Pay Act. The Equal Pay Act makes it a clear violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act for an employer to discriminate against any individual on pay based on gender. It’s a strict liability standard, which means if you’re paying a female employee less than a male employee for the same job with the same title, and the same amount of experience, you are violating the law,” said Poloncarz.

Credit Ashley Hirtzel / WBFO News
Signage about equal pay day.

In Erie County the median weekly pay for a woman working full-time is $630, while men doing similar work earn $798 per week. Poloncarz says it’s time for the community to level the playing field for their workers and address the issue of wage discrimination.

Commissioner of Public Advocacy Sawrie Becker says the pay gap hasn’t changed in a decade. She says it impacts everyone when women aren’t paid equal to men.

“According to the Center for American Progress raising women’s wages to that of men would mean adding $447.6 billion to our GDP and cut the poverty rate among working women and their families in half, from 8.1 percent to 3.9 percent. Here in western New York that would make a huge impact,” said Becker.

This month, the U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would give women additional equal pay protection.

President Obama signed an executive order Tuesday banning federal contractors from retaliating against employees who discuss their compensation. He also signed a presidential memorandum that orders the Labor Secretary to establish new regulations requiring federal contractors to submit data on compensation paid to their employees to the Department of Labor.