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Lawmakers propose bill to close the wage gap for women in Oklahoma

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OKLAHOMA - There’s a new push to require equal pay for women.

Even though a federal law requires it, women still make less money than men for the same jobs in Oklahoma.

Some experts said women in Oklahoma could be missing out on more than $400,000 over their career, because they don’t get paid equally to men.

This new bill would create a complaint process investigated by the Department of Labor.

On college campuses across our state, women are preparing for their careers, but some are unaware, in their first job out of school, they’ll make about 80 percent of what men do for the same work.

“It kind of does seem old fashioned to me," said Amber Taylor. "I think everyone should be paid equally."

In Oklahoma, women are paid 73 cents for every dollar paid to men.

That’s troubling for many households, given 40 percent of them in our state are headed by single mothers.

“Even as you attain additional education and work for many more years, it actually doesn’t decrease the gap," said Oklahoma Coaliton for Woman Executive Director Danielle Ezell. "The wage gap increases."

A house bill could change that.

Representatives Jason Dunnington and Emily Virgin want to make it illegal for an employer in Oklahoma to pay women less than men for comparable work.

The bill would allow female employees who feel they’re being discriminated against to file a complaint with the Labor Department.

“The Labor Department would contact the employer and then would seek records and would do an investigation on whether that’s the case and whether or not that employer was making a practice of paying females less for the same work as males,” Dunnington said.

The bill would also make it illegal to fire a woman because she made a wage claim.

For young women preparing for the workplace, the current wage gap is concerning, especially for students paying their way through school.

“I’m more looking into becoming a PA instead of a doctor, because women don’t get paid as much, when I went to the same school, I have the same schooling, I have the same credentials,” said Tristan Mautz.

Some of the students we talked to said they’re considering moving out of state, because the pay is better in their fields outside of Oklahoma.

Under this bill, employers who fire a woman because she made a wage claim would be charged with a misdemeanor.