HELENA — A bill allowing employees to freely discuss wages passed the Montana House of Representatives Thursday, marking the first time an equal pay bill has cleared a house under Democratic Governor Steve Bullock.
House Bill 547’s sponsor, Rep. Laurie Bishop (D-Livingston) said she doesn’t think the amendments made in the House Business and Labor Committee devalue the bill.
The committee removed the requirements for employers to post wage information, as well as removed the prevention of employers penalizing employees for discussing wages.
“It still retains a lot of the intention of the bill. And the intention is to help to close the wage gap for women,” she said. “But this is a protection that can benefit all employees.”
The bill, which makes it unlawful for an employer to stop an employee from discussing wages, was introduced on behalf of the Equal Pay Task Force, which Bullock established in 2013 to study the gender pay gap in Montana.
Bullock said the task force has worked hard to make sure the bill is an effective step in solving a complicated issue.
“But it’s so great to see Democrats and Republicans come together to recognize some of the barriers of getting rid of that pay disparity,” Bullock said. “It’s another one of these challenges that we have dealt with for 60 years, so it’s not going to be solved overnight. But I’m certainly pleased with the steps that have been taken.”
The bill passed with a vote of 52-to-47 Thursday and is moving to the Senate.
-Tim Pierce reporting for UM Legislative News Service for the University of Montana School of Journalism
Tim Pierce is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Greater Montana Foundation and the Montana Newspaper Association.