JUNEAU (AP) -- State senators want to find out whether gender bias affects pay for state workers. They passed a bill Friday that would pay for a $50,000 study of the issue.
Women working for the state are paid less on average than men, said Sen. Dave Donley, R-Anchorage, and the state needs to find out why that's happening and whether the disparity is legal.
Although it appears the state's hiring and job classification practices are sound, the state needs to be sure to avoid the possibility of costly lawsuits, he said.
''That's the smart way to do business,'' Donley said.
Administration Commissioner Jim Duncan doesn't think there's a problem with gender bias in the state's pay system, but he doesn't oppose the study.
Women and men hired for the same job make the same pay unless one has worked longer or is working in a part of the state with a geographic pay differential, Duncan said.
What the state needs to look at, though, is whether some types of jobs that are dominated by women, such as nursing, are undervalued compared to jobs dominated by men, he said.
''Clearly we don't want to have biases or flaws in our system,'' Duncan said. ''We have no reason to believe that's the case.''
Sen. Lyda Green, R-Mat-Su, cast the only vote against the bill, which was approved 17-1. She said she was concerned that the bill didn't provide a time lag for the state to correct a problem if one is found.
She's also concerned about the cost. The state would spend $50,000 on an initial study, but if that didn't answer the question, a more in-depth study would be conducted at a cost estimated at $500,000 or more.
The bill now goes to the House.
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