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Greenwich officials applaud new laws that offer greater protections to women

January 4, 2019

GREENWICH — Advocates from Greenwich are applauding new state laws that went into effect on Jan. 1 that are designed to help women in areas as diverse as equal pay, domestic violence and health care.

One new law prohibits employers from asking a prospective employee about their wage and salary history. The law’s goal is to promote pay equity between men and women as well as close the existing pay gap. State Rep. Livvy Floren, R-149, played a key part in crafting the bill in the last legislative session.

“I was selected at the onset to serve on a bipartisan Pay Equity Task Force, and we drafted the basic legislation after talking to many stakeholders such as small business owners, Chambers of Commerce, labor lawyers and legislators in other states,” Floren said. “It was an honor to be a part of this effort from Day 1.”

The reasoning behind the law is that by keeping information about past salaries confidential, the gap will close quicker, she said.

“If you do the same work you should be paid the same as everyone else,” said state Rep. Fred Camillo, R-151, who voted for the bill. “Whether you’re male or female there should be similar pay for what they do.”

YWCA Greenwich President and CEO Mary Lee Kiernan was also a big supporter of the pay equity law.

“The chronic pay gap between men and women really can follow women from job-to-job, and so this law works against that,” Kiernan said.

Another new state law requires a police officer responding to the scene of family or domestic violence to arrest the “dominant aggressor,” a change they say will better protect victims.

“This law will help women understand that they’re not necessarily at risk for being arrested as well,” Kiernan said. “It also increases their safety.”

And local advocates and police officers have already undergone training on how the new workings of the new law. Under the previous law, police sometimes arrested both the perpetrator and the victim, a practice known as “dual arrests.”

“They have to feel comfortable calling the police,” Kiernan said of domestic violence victims, who are usually women. “And it also decreases the risk of additional trauma for children. When children are present to see both partners or parents arrested is more traumatizing.”

The YMCA Greenwich is the only area nonprofit that offers a 24/7 hotline for domestic abuse response as well as shelter, counseling for individuals and family and court services.

Greenwich already had a lower percentage of dual arrests, 10.8 percent compared to the state average of 20 percent, said Kiernan, who was part of a statewide group put together by the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence to research the legislation.

YWCA Greenwich has worked closely with the Greenwich Police Department on responding to domestic violence calls. Vanessa Wilson, manager of operations for YWCA Greenwich’s Domestic Abuse Services, accompanied police Sgt. Brent Reeves to recent training on how the law is put into practice.

“It’s been very difficult for the police sometimes determining who the dominant aggressor is,” Wilson said. “In the past, if they’ve had probable cause that a crime has been committed, their mandate was to make an arrest for both parties even though they may have had a feeling that one was the dominant aggressor.”

Lt. John Slusarz, public information officer for the Greenwich police, said the department supports the new law.

“Domestic violence is violence,” Slusarz said. “Each incident of domestic violence is unique onto itself, and must be thoroughly investigated. The new public act will empower officers to take the most appropriate action given the circumstances and avoid re-victimizing the true victim in these cases.”

Camillo said the new law would be another tool for Greenwich police.

“I know people in our town who have been afraid to call the police because they don’t want to be arrested, even though they are the victim,” Camillo said. “We want people to be able to call the police if they need help, and we don’t want the fear of being arrested be in the back of their minds to keep them from making that call.”

Another new state law that will benefit women writes Obamacare protections into Connecticut law. Under that law, at least 10 “essential health benefits,” including maternity and newborn care, will be required, even if Obamacare is repealed at the federal level or by a judge.

Another new law requires insurance companies in Connecticut to pay for mammograms, breast ultrasounds and breast imaging MRIs with no cost share to patients.

Under the previous law, some baseline mammograms were covered by insurance. But if an additional follow-up procedure was needed, it could result in a cost to patients for hundreds of dollars. Proponents of the law said it will help save patients money while making sure they have access to medical services they need.

kborsuk@greenwichtime.com

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