In Iowa, women make 78 cents for every dollar made by men for the same work. Our state ranks 37th among all states for gender wage equity. According to the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women, the pay gap is somewhat smaller for younger workers and a bit wider for older workers. In an effort to end wage discrimination, the Iowa House of Representatives approved a bill this week to add pay discrimination to Iowa’s Civil Rights Code. If Iowans perform jobs that require equal skills, effort and responsibility, and are performed under the same working conditions, employers are prohibited from paying them lower wages. The bill covers businesses with four or more employees. Employees who are family members are excluded from this issue.

In addition to helping women, Senate File 137 will also apply to racial and cultural minorities as well as people with disabilities. The goal is to end all wage discrimination and send a positive message that Iowa values all workers.

As one of the few states that still has not elected a woman to the Governor’s office or United States Congress, the House Chamber also passed a bill this past week to encourage more women to participate in government. Just as the state did in 1987, House File 243 requires gender balance on local government boards and commissions. Despite being over 50 percent of the population women make up only 18 percent of local government boards and commission.

Protecting volunteer emergency provider’s jobs

The House has passed and sent to the Senate House File 671. This bill prevents volunteer emergency service providers from being fired because they are late to or miss work because of responding to an emergency.

Legislators realize that 99 percent of employers in Iowa value and recognize the important role that employees who are volunteer emergency providers play. This bill allows an employee who is fired from his/her job, because he/she was late or absent from work, to bring a civil action against the employer. This applies only if the reason for being late or absent was that the employee was responding to an emergency.

In the bill, employees have responsibilities, including notifying their employers as soon as possible that they will be late. They will also be required to give notice in writing that the employee was responding to a call. An employer has the discretion to deduct from the employee’s regular pay an amount equal to the time that the employee was absent from work to respond to an emergency.

Because the majority of firefighters and other emergency responders in this state are volunteers, this proactive bill is very important to both employers and the employees who serve as volunteers. It sets clear guidelines for both parties, and serves as a reminder that job loss should never be a concern to a volunteer who answer a call to an emergency.

Contact me at (515) 281-3221 or 242-6603. Or e-mail me at

Rep. Polly Bukta, D-Clinton, has been a member of the Iowa House of Representatives since 1997. She represents District 26, which covers part of Clinton County.