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Small Victory for Pay Equity Unfolds in Virginia

Susan Clarke Schaar has been working as a Virginia Senate Clerk for nearly 30 years, and she was just as surprised as everyone else when she found out that she was making less than a man who had the same job and less work experience.

Clerk of the Virginia House of Delegates G. Paul Nardo has held his job title for about 6 years, and he earns $194,341 a year. Meanwhile, Schaar, who does the same work as Nardo, earns $175,392 a year. That’s nearly a $19,000 difference.

Thankfully, Senate Majority Leader Thomas K. Norment Jr. (R-James City) recognized the severity of the discrepancy. He introduced a budget amendment that would correct the pay gap between the two clerks by increasing Schaar’s salary to $195,065 beginning at the end of June. The bill also proposes that the salary of each clerk be listed in the budget, increasing pay transparency and reducing further pay discrepancies.

While Democrats supported the bill, many Republicans fought back, arguing that the differences in pay were justified. “The clerk in the House of Delegates is the keeper of the rolls,” said chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Del. S. Chris Jones (R-Suffolk). “Next year when we get here, his office and he [will] take care of the inauguration. So the jobs are not equal in what they do as far as their task at hand.” Jones suggests that Nardo’s workload is heavier because he is responsible for monitoring enrollment, but not all members of the State Congress shared this view.

Norment challenged Jones’ idea that Nardo’s job is more demanding. “What I would expect is probably like the journal in the Senate – there are individuals that are doing it rather than the clerk herself and what I would expect is [that] Paul is supervising the people,” he said. “He’s not down there doing the rolls.” Norment also made a point to mention that the root of the issue is the fact that a clerk with more experience is making significantly less than another clerk with less experience, when both clerks’ responsibilities are about the same. “I just think that she’s entitled to be compensated at the same level as the clerk of the House. She’s been here 30 years,” he says.“It’s a fairness issue.”

The budget amendment has yet to pass because of these disagreements among lawmakers, but members of the Senate still sought justice for Schaar. The Senate Rules Committee raised Schaar’s salary to $195,500. Schaar’s only comment on the outcome of the situation is that she is “satisfied” with the results.

While people admit that the correction of this single instance is a step towards pay equality, it’s important to remember that many more women in the US don’t have powerful people like Norment to help them fight for what they deserve. Though it’s good to celebrate the little victories, it’s necessary that people continue seeking pay equity on a larger scale.

Featured Image by Steve wilson on Flickr
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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