MOBILE, ALA. (WALA)- Alabama is ending its status as one of two states without an equal pay law. Now, only Mississippi remains without such a law.
Starting Sunday, Alabama's Equal Pay law prohibits businesses from paying workers less than employees of another race or sex.
In 2009, President Barrack Obama signed his first piece of legislation "The "Lilly Ledbetter Bill". It praises Alabama native Lilly Ledbetter for her fight for equal pay. Her story inspired Mobile Representative Adline Clarke to sponsor a bill in the trailblazer's home state.
Clarke said, "She still to this day is probably the most recognizable face in the pay equity movement nationally and so it was called to my attention that 48 states had passed equal pay legislation. The two states that had not were Mississippi and Mrs. Ledbetter's own home state of Alabama and there was just something wrong with that picture."
The Alabama Equal Pay Law states that unless there are reasons such as seniority, a merit system or productivity to account for the difference, men and women of all races should be paid the same.
"It's a matter of fairness," said Clarke.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, American women working full time in 2017 earned about $.80 for every dollar men earned. The 20% gap ringing true for Alabama, too.
Clarke said, "We hope that this pay equity is going to help to close the gender pay gap in Alabama."
The Federal Equal Pay law of 1963 already aimed to abolish wage gaps based on sex, but Clarke said Alabama's law now allows victims to file lawsuits in state court as opposed to federal. An idea she said might be less intimidating for some.
"Many households are headed by single women who have all of the same expenses that any two income households have. It's money that women, families need to buy groceries, gas, childcare, healthcare, tuition, you name it so we need to do all that we can so that everybody has an opportunity to get decent and fair wages," Clarke said.
The new law also keeps a prospective employee from having to disclose to a future employer what their old salary was when applying for a new job.
Clarke said that keeps a future employee from having a possible disadvantage when it comes to salaries.