MORGANTOWN -- In 1963, Congress passed the national Equal Pay Act, and it's been almost a decade since lawmakers enacted the 1998 Equal Pay Bill for the state of West Virginia.
But is the Mountain State economy acting on those laws? Are there now equal salaries for men and women in the same line of work?
A commissioner of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and two other experts will take up those questions Monday, April 9, at the West Virginia University College of Law.
Christine Griffin, who was named to the four-member EEOC body in January 2006, will be joined on the "Pay Equity Panel" with Delegate Barbara Evans Fleischauer, D-Monongalia and chairwoman of the state Equal Pay Commission; and Dr. Mohamed G. Alkrady, a WVU professor of public administration and co-author of "Unequal Pay: The Role of Gender," published recently by the Public Administration Review.
The hourlong panel will start at 3:30 p.m. in the College of Law's Davis Gallery. The Women's Law Caucus is co-hosting the event, which is being held in anticipation of the national Pay Equity Day later this month.
"National Perspectives" on pay equity is the title of Griffin's presentation. Fleischauer will discuss "Equal Pay in West Virginia," and Alkadry will look "Beyond Glass Ceilings and Walls."
While some advances have been made, West Virginia remains one of the lowest economies in the nation for women, according to a report released three months ago by the Institute for Women's Policy Research, a Washington, D.C. think tank that tracks pay equity and other women's issues across the country.
West Virginia, according to that report, is the 49th state in the nation for women's economic well-being, coming before Arkansas and Louisiana, which finished 50th and 51st.
The rankings are based on education, earning power and other factors.
Topping the list with the best economic climate for females were the District of Columbia, Maryland and Massachusetts, the report stated.
Nationally, the report indicates, women who work full-time, 12 months a year have a median income of $31,800 –- or 77 percent of what men earn at $41,300.
Women in the District of Columbia average $42,400 a year, according to that report, opposed to the $27,600 women in West Virginia bring home on their paychecks.
Those numbers on the ledger all have a shared bottom line, panel organizers say, which is quality of life.
"Pay equity is no longer in the headlines, but it remains a critical issue for the economic vitality of the state and the nation," said Joyce McConnell, an associate law dean who has written extensively on women's rights issues while teaching classes on gender and law.
"Wage disparity due to sex, race, national origin or disability is critical to the economic well-being of families and children," she said. "We have an esteemed panel that can refocus the nation and the state on this crucial issue."
McConnell's law school colleague (and panel co-organizer), Robert Bastress, agreed.
"In EEOC Commissioner Christine Griffin, we have a nationally recognized figure in fair employment law," said Bastress, who teaches courses in employment discrimination.
"Professor Mohamed Alkadry has done significant and revealing research on pay equity issues," he added, "and Del. Barbara Fleischauer has spent over a decade fighting for equal pay for women in West Virginia."
National Pay Equity Day is April 24. Find out more on the Web at www.payequity.org.
Here are brief biographies of the panelists:
* Christine Griffin was appointed as an EEOC commissioner in 2006 for a three-year term. Her confirmation by the U.S. Senate was unanimous. Before that, she spent 10 years as executive director of the Disability Law Center in Boston. She was recently selected as one of the nation's 11 "Lawyers of the Year" by Lawyers Weekly USA, a newspaper that serves the country's legal community.
* Barbara Evans Fleischauer, an attorney and 44th District delegate to the State Legislature, sponsored the 1998 Equal Pay bill, which established the state Equal Pay Commission. That body discovered a significant gender gap in the paychecks of West Virginia men and women, and funding was placed in the 2001 state budget to begin addressing the particulars.
* Mohamad G. Alkadry has long been hailed for his social outreach work on the WVU campus and in the community. The public administration professor is a prolific writer and researcher who studies pay inequity across West Virginia.