Public Comments for 02/24/2022 Commerce and Energy - Subcommittee #2
SB226 - Workers' compensation; notice to employees.
SB407 - Disability insurance; disability arising out of childbirth.
SB447 - Wage or salary history inquiries; prohibited, civil penalty.
We are writing to you on behalf of the 1,000 members of the American Association of University Women in 24 branches in the Commonwealth of Virginia (AAUW-VA) to urge your support for SB 447 which would prohibit employers from seeking the “wage and salary history of a prospective employee” and relying on this information “…in considering the prospective employee for employment.” AAUW of Virginia has worked for many years to close the gender pay gap in Virginia. Virginia’s working women still lag behind their male counterparts in median annual earnings. In 2019, the last year we have data for, $60,285 was the median annual earnings for men in Virginia compared to $48,209 for women, an earnings ratio of just 80 percent. This ranked Virginia 27th among states and the District of Columbia. The gender pay gap is far worse for most women of color and working mothers. The COVID pandemic has only exacerbated this gap, disproportionately impacting many working women who were forced to leave the workforce to care for and support their children with remote learning when their schools were closed. As a result, women and their families are even more economically insecure than they were prior to the pandemic. While a comprehensive bill like the federal Paycheck Fairness Act would provide an ideal outcome, it has not become law so incremental steps, such as provided by SB 447, are also valuable and should be pursued for the benefit of Virginia’s workers. Relying on salary history to set future salaries of employees assumes that prior salaries were fairly established in the first place. Using salary histories, which may have been tainted by bias, means that discriminatory pay follows workers wherever they go, whatever their job, throughout their careers, no matter their abilities. Not only would curtailing the practice of relying upon salary histories to set future salaries go a long way in our fight for pay equity for women, but it also will benefit men who can be disadvantaged by the use of salary history as a condition of employment. By December 2020, 17 other states had enacted state-wide bans on seeking and/or using salary history information to establish salaries. Salary history bans pose little cost to businesses to implement, other than a change to policy and/or reprinting of applications. Salary history bans work: Harvard University researchers analyzed differences between areas with salary history bans and neighboring counties in states without bans and found that these new laws generated substantial pay increases for Black (+13%) and female (+8%) candidates who took new jobs. Banning use of salary history as a condition of employment or to set wages or salary is an important, incremental measure that will help close the gender pay gap in Virginia. We hope we can count on your support for SB 447 when the bill is considered in your subcommittee. Thank you for your leadership. Leslie Tourigny and Suzanne Rothwell Co-Presidents, AAUW-VA Susan Burk and Denise Murden Co-Vice Presidents for Public Policy, AAUW-VA
SB524 - Payment of prevailing wage; certified payroll, penalties.
After 20 years of working for a VA-based General Contractor (GCs), I would strongly encourage you to vote NO on this bill as it will negatively impact the road builders in your state. Currently, GCs in VA who are awarded jobs funded with grants, state, and/or federal funds already utilize prevailing wages, which are already subject to the certified payroll reporting requirements to the local jurisdictions administering the project. GCs are already required to certify our own payrolls and the payrolls of our subcontractors. SB 524 burdens contractors with redundant reporting requirements with threats of Jail Time and Fines. VDOT already utilizes online software AASHTOWare Project to track & review contractors’ payrolls. Contractors upload certified payrolls in this software which is painfully complicated to use. The program does not allow all of the payroll-related items to be reported such as Medicare deductions. Under SB 524, contractors would automatically be found in noncompliance for this issue alone and be subjected to fines and a Class 6 felony charge. In addition, the current software does not adequately address salaried employees working on the projects. SB 524 does not adequately address subcontractor issues. The local or state jurisdiction administering the project does not have a contract with the subcontractors. Therefore, all of the reporting burdens and liability fall on the General Contractor. GCs are already reviewing and making subcontractors fix their reports, and the GCs are required to certify them. In road construction, GCs are required to utilize a certain percentage of Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) subcontractors who are pre-qualified by the Virginia Department of Small Business & Supplier Diversity. In some instances, these are sole-source subcontractors due to the scope of work specified, and many of these subcontractors struggle with the AASHTOware Project software because of its deficiencies. SB 524 introduces penalties for issues these subcontractors are having. Under current law, the GC’s contract requires that payment to the subcontractor must be made within seven (7) days of payment by owner; however, subcontractor certified payroll mistakes may not be discovered until after that time, and since the jurisdiction is not in contract with the subcontractor, it is the GC who is left holding the bag—and under SB 524, the GC would be facing felony charges and hefty fines. The jurisdictions do not have mechanisms in place to enforce penalties for the subcontractors—they can only seek redress through the Performance & Payment Bonds of the General Contractor. Maryland has already tried these penalties, and I can tell you from experience that they do not solve the problem they were created for. When the subcontractors make mistakes or do not have the resources to respond to all the new reporting requirements, the only people paying the price are the General Contractors. Under SB 524, road builders will no longer be given the time to address issues without penalties to the GCs. SB 524 appears to be a pro-labor union, money-grab bill with private businesses on the hook. More time should be spent by the Commissioner in resolving the State’s certified payroll reporting system so that the government can utilize the information already being provided instead of pursuing new penalties and burdening the road builders in Virginia. I respectfully request that you vote NO on SB 524.
SB181 - Workers' compensation; presumption as to death or disability from COVID-19, vaccine.