Pay equity study passes Legislature

Posted: Sunday, May 06, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- The House passed a bill Saturday calling for a study of why women who work for the state make less than men. The measure has already passed the Senate.

Rep. Lisa Murkowski, R-Anchorage, said women in Alaska make 65 percent of what men do.

''Equal pay for equal work makes an awful lot of sense,'' Murkowski said. ''Apparently in the state of Alaska we're not there yet.''

A state Department of Labor study from 1999 showed women in state government make 74 percent of what men do. The study would examine why that's happening and whether the disparity is legal.

The bill's sponsor, Sen. Dave Donley, R-Anchorage, said 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.

The state would spend about $50,000 on an initial study. If that didn't answer the question, a more in-depth study would be conducted at a cost estimated at $500,000 or more.

Department of Administration Commissioner Jim Duncan said although he doesn't believe there is a problem with the state's hiring practices, the department has no problem studying the issue.

Duncan said women and men hired for the same job in the state make the same pay unless one has worked longer or is working in a part of the state with a geographic pay differential.

What the state needs to look at is whether some types of jobs that are dominated by women, such as nursing, are undervalued compared to jobs dominated by men, Duncan said. He doesn't believe that's the case.

The bill passed the House 38-2, with Reps. Vic Kohring, R-Wasilla, and Scott Ogan, R-Palmer, casting the no votes.

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