Governor issues Gender Pay Equity Executive Order

On December 4, 2015, Governor Jay Nixon issued an executive order directing all state agencies, and encouraging private sector employers, to “…review and determine how the practices, contained in the preliminary guidelines and eventually, the Pay Equity Best Practices Guidelines, can be utilized by their agency or business and to identify and address any gender wage gap in order to ensure that all Missourians receive equal pay for equal work.”

Executive Order 15-09 acknowledges the “Pay Equity Best Practices Guidelines”have not been finalized yet. Some may find it fascinating that the Governor issued the Executive Order before even knowing what is in the final guidelines.  The executive order references preliminary findings of the Harry S Truman School of Public Affairs that is drafting the guidelines under contract with the Women’s Foundation. It may be interesting to note the Governor unveiled the Executive Order at the Women’s Foundation annual luncheon in Kansas City.

The executive order approach was suggested by Associated Industries of Missouri (AIM) during testimony against a bill that was filed during the 2015 session that would have required the Department of Labor to draft guidelines. AIM feared placing the directive to draft guidelines in the statutes may have given the force of law to guidelines that would be drafted by an executive agency without legislative oversight. AIM suggested if guidelines were truly the goal, Governor Nixon could simply issue an executive order that must be followed by state agencies but has no force of law with private sector employers.

With this issue, details matter. The study referenced in the governor’s press release on the guidelines makes very general statements about the overall pay of men and women and really speaks to the need for women to move into higher paying job classifications that are “traditionally” held by mostly men.

Equal pay for equal work is already the law. Men and women with the same training and experience doing the same job must be paid the same or the disadvantaged party has reason to file suit under current law.

At issue in this discussion is “equal pay for equivalent work” – a much more complicated issue. Does the CEO work as hard at her job as the male janitor? If you ask the CEO, perhaps so – if you ask the janitor, perhaps not. If a law existed that required equal pay for equivalent work, the courts may find that the physical labor required of the janitor is equivalent to the less physical but more stressful job of a CEO and the pay should be equal.

At least in this case, the State of Missouri will try to apply the guidelines (that have yet to be written) to workers in state jobs, rather than imposing them upon the private sector. Might they find some of the lowest paid female workers work for the Governor in various state agencies? Stay tuned.