Iceland Just Made It Illegal To Pay Women Less

Photographed by Tayler Smith.

Too many women have had that humiliating "oh shit" moment when they find out just how much the guy in the next cubicle makes. Molly's outrage on season 2 of Insecure comes to mind, when she accidentally learns that her white, male (and useless) coworker Travis earns a fortune compared to her.

One country — and yes, sadly only one, and the first one to do so — has recently made gender-based pay discrimination illegal. On Monday, a law in Iceland went into effect that requires employers to prove they are paying men and women equally — or be fined around $500 per day, according to CNN.

The Icelandic government says it's committed to closing the country's gender pay gap by 2022. In 2016, this gap was around 16%.

Companies and organizations with at least 25 full-time employees are now required to get equal-pay certification from the Icelandic government. Those with over 250 employees have to get the certification by the end of 2018, while others have a little more time. And they have to provide proof that any salary disparity between men and women who work in the same position is due to experience or performance — and not gender.

Overall, Iceland is already doing well on the gender-equality front: According to the World Economic Forum women are paid less than men in every country in the world, but Iceland ranks first in the 2016 Global Gender Gap report.

Here in the U.S., pay discrimination is technically illegal because of the Equal Pay Act of 1963, but thanks to loopholes, it's very hard to enforce how private companies pay their employees. Further, states like New York have passed laws that make it illegal to ask a job applicant for their salary history, and these laws have expanded across the U.S.

Democrats have attempted to level the playing field by trying to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act — which would close such loopholes — multiple times, but Republicans have refused to even bring the bill to the floor for a vote.

There was some progress in 2016, when President Barack Obama announced an executive action on pay discrimination that would require companies with 100 or more employees to report employees' salaries by race, gender, and ethnicity. But Trump revoked Obama-era equal pay protections.

Iceland's move is a major step forward for pay equality. While it's laudable that the country's government is working on dismantling systematic discrimination, it's a reminder that other countries should be doing so as well.

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