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Md. Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Mizeur proposes plans on equal pay, paid family leave

Maryland Del. Heather R. Mizeur chats with people attending a town hall meeting on climate change in Silver Spring in August. (Photo by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Maryland gubernatorial hopeful Heather R. Mizeur (D) on Thursday proposed plans to ensure equal pay for women and to provide workers with paid family leave time, an agenda she said would help women“control their own finances, work lives and fertility.”

Under Mizeur’s proposed Paycheck Fairness Act, employers would be required to prove that any pay differences between men and women for similar jobs exist for legitimate reasons. Gender-based discrimination would be treated the same way under the law as racial discrimination. And employers would not be allowed to retaliate against workers who discuss salaries with colleagues.

Mizeur, a state delegate from Montgomery County, pointed to statistics showing that women in Maryland make 85 cents per dollar earned by men in the state. That’s better than the national average of 77 cents per dollar but still not acceptable, she said.

“Narrowing the gender gap is not enough,” said Mizeur, who would be the first woman to serve as governor as Maryland. “We cannot claim victory until it is eliminated.”

Mizeur said her proposal replicates legislation stalled in Congress that seeks to update the Equal Pay Act of 50 years ago. Vermont has also recently taken action on the state level.

She also called for a paid family leave program, under which the state would pay two-thirds of a worker’s salary, up to $1,000 a week, for up to six weeks.

Based on similar programs in California and New Jersey, Mizeur estimated the program would cost the state $82 million annually. Workers would be able to take leave time to care for newborn babies, adopt children or care for sick or aging family members.

Mizeur faces Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler in the June Democratic primary.

John Wagner is a political reporter covering the race for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination.

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