Gender wage gap persists despite New Mexico’s “Fair Pay for Women Act”

The wage gap between men and women still exists in New Mexico.

The New Mexico legislature enacted the "Fair Pay for Women Act" back in 2013 as a way to address systematic wage disparity between women and similarly qualified/situated men performing the same jobs. Ideally, this law would have put women and men on an even playing field when it comes to benefits and compensation, meaning that no longer would the contribution of women be undervalued in the work force, as women would finally be paid at the same rate as men performing the same job duties.

In practice, however, the benefits of the law to women - particularly women of color - around the state haven't been as noticeable as supporters of the law had hoped. The National Partnership for Women and Families (NPWF) reports that, as of April 2016, women in New Mexico are still only making 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man in the same line of work (even after accounting for differences in seniority and experience).

A 2017 report by financial clearinghouse NerdWallet paints a slightly rosier picture: they estimate that women earn 85 cents per dollar earned by New Mexico's men. That being said, though, the disparate impact on non-white women was even more striking: Latina women in the state only earn about 55 cents for every dollar paid to a white man.

According to the data compiled by the NPWF, women in New Mexico employed full-time lose out on an amazing sum annually solely because of the wage gap: more than $2.3 billion. Wage gaps exist across industry lines, regardless of education level, in all aspects of the American work force. While it is true that differences in experience level, skill, seniority and leadership ability do account for about 60 percent of the wage gap in many cases, that still leaves almost 40 percent that is likely the result of conscious or subconscious discrimination and bias against women.

Taking action if you've been discriminated against

While the Fair Pay for Women Act hasn't been a panacea for the decades of underpayment of women across the state, it has certainly been beneficial, particularly for women who are able to prove unfair treatment by their employers. The Act increased the time during which women could bring legal action against current or former employers, and it also:

  • Gives courts the discretion to order administrative, injunctive or non-monetary remedies to bring about systematic culture changes in companies found to have discriminatory pay practices
  • Allows for treble (triple) damages to be awarded to victimized women unless the employer can prove that it acted in good faith and did not intend to violate the Act or any other legal protections for women
  • Lets judges award punitive damages against employers found to have enacted unfair and/or discriminatory pay schemes

If you have been the victim of unfair discrimination in the workplace or harassment because of your gender, you have legal rights under both state and federal law. For more information about legal options, and to discuss your case with an experienced New Mexico employment law attorney, contact the law offices of Moody & Warner, P.C. online or by calling 505-227-8343.