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Hawaiʻi pay transparency bill advancing to House floor

The Hawaiʻi House of Representatives on the opening day of the legislative session on Jan. 18, 2023.
Sophia McCullough
The Hawaiʻi House of Representatives on the opening day of the legislative session on Jan. 18, 2023.

During her 40-year career, Jean Evans applied for, and secured, two executive director positions.

"I had no idea of the salary ranges or even if there were any," Evans wrote in testimony. "When I inquired about the salary I was told only that it was 'flexible.'"

But that didn't help her narrow down a salary equal to the position's former male counterpart.

"Only after being in these positions with a salary, I thought fair, did I discover that previous executive directors were compensated well above me," Evans wrote. "In one case the salary was over twice my salary. Interestingly, one was a female and the other a male."

Evans shared this story Wednesday, in support of a measure that would require Hawaiʻi employers to disclose hourly and salary ranges in job postings.

It is a move that studies have shown to narrow pay disparity gaps and one that seven states, including California and Colorado, have already enacted.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives Judiciary & Hawaiian Affairs Committee passed Senate Bill 1057 with a favorable recommendation, moving it to the full floor.

Carrie Ann Shirota, policy director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaiʻi, testified Wednesday, saying this measure can narrow the gender pay gap and build equity.

"The current system of voluntarily disclosing pay transparency disadvantages, particularly women, who are often at a disadvantage in terms of negotiating their salary," Shirota said.

Shirota said that during negotiations, potential employees often have to reference past salaries.

"When they're paid historically less, what happens is that we start compounding the problem, we build upon years of disparities, which further widens the pay gap," Shirota said.

Tina Yamaki, president of the Retail Merchants of Hawaiʻi, said this measure has the potential to hurt small businesses.

"Measures like this may force small mom-and-pop businesses to close their doors as this would be detrimental to small local businesses who cannot compete with the higher salary being offered by some of the larger or nationally owned companies," Yamaki wrote in testimony.

The measure excludes internal transfers and promotions, and public employee positions that would have compensation determined by collective bargaining.

Sabrina Bodon is Hawaiʻi Public Radio's government reporter. Contact her at sbodon@hawaiipublicradio.org or 808-792-8252.
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