#MeToo Movement Shines Spotlight on Pay Equity

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By Genevieve Douglas

The national #MeToo movement has gone a long way in shining a light on the pervasive problem of sexual harassment. It’s also likely making women workers feel more empowered to seek fair pay.

Salary disparity is increasingly under the microscope, as the most recent Golden Globes awards show revealed when stars like Geena Davis, Debra Messing, and Jessica Chastain called out the movie industry for underpaying women.

Pay equity and sexual harassment may be separate issues, but they both stem from the current feminist movement, John Doran, partner at Sherman & Howard representing employers, told Bloomberg Law Jan. 19.

“The pay equity piece is advanced by the #MeToo campaign because it’s all about having the voice, the bravery, and feeling safe to talk about one’s experience,” Doran said. “That should embolden individuals who feel they are the victims of gender inequity to come forward.”

Mobile Millennial Workers

In today’s more transparent workplace, employees have a heightened awareness of whether employers are paying workers equally, and that can influence whether they stay or go.

“If employers don’t face pay inequities that exist they run the risk of employees jumping ship,” Scott Dobroski, community expert for jobs website Glassdoor, told Bloomberg Law Jan. 17.

Glassdoor, meanwhile, finds a large amount of wanderlust in employees. Nearly 40 percent of job seekers are either currently searching or planning to look for a new job this year, according to recent Glassdoor data. That number is even higher among millennials, as 56 percent of workers in the millennial age range (18 to 34) are looking for a job or plan to in the next 12 months, Dobroski said.

A separate Glassdoor survey of 750 hiring decision-makers revealed that 45 percent of exiting employees cite salary as the main motive for their departure, but those numbers may not be telling the whole story for millennials.

Millennial workers will likely always be a mobile workforce, but they are more willing to change jobs for workplaces they perceive as more progressive, and that includes equal pay, Terri Hartwell Easter, principal of T.H. Easter Consulting, told Bloomberg Law Jan. 22.

As Workers Speak Up, Employers Must Act

The more employees see discussions of wage gaps or discrimination in the workplace, the more likely they will speak up at the workplace, and human resources departments should be ready for that discussion.

Employers should directly address the issues being raised by the #MeToo movement and should have an open dialogue with workers to hear what they are concerned about, Doran said. “The worst thing an employer can do, however, is open up the discussion and not do anything about it,” he said.

Companies are increasingly exploring how to conduct pay equity investigations, Doran said. The awareness of the issue is apparent, but the question is what do they do with that information, he said. “These movements aren’t going to die down, and will only become more robust in the future,” he added.

It’s also “critically important” for employers to understand why workers leave, Doran said. “There’s no substitute for a robust exit interview,” he advised.

To contact the reporter on this story: Genevieve Douglas in Washington at gdouglas@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com

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