2022 Regular Session
To: Judiciary A
By: Representatives Cockerham, Gunn, Miles, Karriem, Arnold, Gibbs (72nd), Bailey, McGee, Stamps, Mickens, Paden, Harness, Foster, Byrd
AN ACT TO CREATE THE MISSISSIPPI EQUAL PAY ACT; TO PROVIDE DEFINITIONS FOR "EMPLOYEE", "EMPLOYER", "WAGE", "RATE", AND "UNPAID WAGES"; TO PROVIDE THAT NO EMPLOYER SHALL PAY AN EMPLOYEE A WAGE AT A RATE LESS THAN THE RATE AT WHICH AN EMPLOYEE OF THE OPPOSITE SEX IN THE SAME ESTABLISHMENT IS PAID FOR EQUAL WORK ON A JOB, THE PERFORMANCE OF WHICH REQUIRES EQUAL SKILL, EFFORT AND RESPONSIBILITY, AND WHICH IS PERFORMED UNDER SIMILAR WORKING CONDITIONS; TO PROVIDE REMEDIES; TO PROVIDE THE TIME IN WHICH A CIVIL ACTION MUST BE FILED; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. The provisions of this act shall be known and may be cited as the "Mississippi Equal Pay for Equal Work Act".
SECTION 2. For the purposes of this act, the following words and phrases shall have the meanings as defined in this section unless the context clearly indicates otherwise:
(a) "Employee" means any individual who is employed to work forty (40) or more hours a week and who is employed by an employer, including individuals employed by the state or any of its political subdivisions or instrumentalities of subdivisions.
(b) "Employer" means any person who employs five (5) or more employees.
(c) "Wage" means and includes all compensation paid by an employer or his or her agent for the performance of service by an employee, including the cash value of all compensation paid in any medium other than cash.
(d) "Rate" with reference to wages means the basis of compensation for services by an employee for an employer and includes compensation based on time spent in the performance of such services, on the number of operations accomplished, or on the quality produced or handled.
(e) "Unpaid wages" means the difference between the wages actually paid to an employee and the wages required to be paid to an employee as provided in this act.
(f) "Skill" means and shall be measured by factors such as experience, ability, education and training that are required to perform a job.
(g) "Effort" means the amount of physical or mental exertion needed to perform a job.
(h) "Responsibility" means the degree of accountability required to perform the job.
(i) "Working Conditions" means and includes the following two (2) factors:
(i) The physical surroundings of a job including, but not limited to, temperature, fumes and ventilation; and
(ii) The hazards of the job.
SECTION 3. (1) No employer may pay an employee a wage at a rate less than the rate at which an employee of the opposite sex in the same establishment is paid for equal work on a job, the performance of which requires equal skill, education, effort and responsibility, and which is performed under similar working conditions, except where payment is made pursuant to differential based on:
(a) A seniority system;
(b) A merit system;
(c) A system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or
(d) Any other factor other than sex. "Any other factor other than sex" shall include, but not be limited to, the following factors:
(i) The salary history or continuity of employment history demonstrated by the employee as compared to employees of the opposite sex in the same establishment;
(ii) The extent to which there was competition with other employers for the employee's services as compared to employees of the opposite sex in the same establishment; and
(iii) The extent to which the employee attempted to negotiate for higher wages as compared to employees of the opposite sex in the same establishment.
(2) (a) The provisions of this act may be enforced by private action in a civil suit in the circuit court in the county in Mississippi where the cause of action occurred.
(b) If an employer is found to have violated the provisions of subsection (1) of this section, the employee shall be awarded reasonable remedies, which may include attorney's fees, prejudgment interest, back pay, liquidated damages and one hundred percent (100%) of the difference of unpaid wages.
(3) An employer who is paying a wage differential in violation of this act shall not, in order to comply with this act, reduce the wage rate of any employee.
(4) No employer may discharge, discriminate or in any way retaliate against any employee by reason of any action taken by the employee to invoke or assist in any manner the enforcement of this act.
SECTION 4. (1) A civil action brought under this act may be commenced no later than two (2) years from the day the employee knew or should have known his or her employer was in violation of this act.
(2) If an employee brings a claim under the Equal Pay Act of 1963, a separate action may not be maintained under this act. If an employee brings a claim under this act, then later initiates a claim under the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the action brought under this act shall be dismissed with prejudice. An employee who seeks relief under this act must first waive any right to relief under the Equal Pay Act of 1963.
(3) For any action under this act, published precedents of the United States Supreme Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and federal district courts embracing the circuit court in which any action under this act is pending, deciding cases under the Equal Pay Act of 1963, after which this act is patterned, shall be considered mandatory authority and shall be followed by the circuit court in which the action is pending, until there is a contrary ruling interpreting this act by the Mississippi Supreme Court or the Mississippi Court of Appeals.
SECTION 5. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after July 1, 2022.