Why I Oppose the Paycheck Fairness Act

I find it puzzling that considering the recent creep up in the unemployment rate, some in Congress want to place additional hiring and reporting burdens on employers.

At issue is the Paycheck Fairness Act, which has already been rejected by the Senate two times.  But as they say, a third time is a charm, so why not try pushing it through the Senate once more, right?  Before you continue to read this blog, bare in mind that I am not one of those overpayed, over privileged, white males that the left often complains about.  While anybody’s take on this issue is as valid as mine, I feel particularly qualified to speak since the Paycheck Fairness Act is ostensibly designed to help my gender.

There are a myriad of things wrong with it, not the least of which it is based on the fallacy that women doing the same job are paid

much less than men.  The most reported statistic on this is 2008 Census data citing that women are paid 77 cents for every dollar earned by a man.  But several studies find that the wage gap narrows significantly when considering personal career choices made by women, such as the decision to work part-time or to take a lower-risk job.

False premise aside, consider the bill itself.  It would allow workers to share salary information among themselves without being punished by employers through lawsuits or termination.  Fair enough.  But the Paycheck Fairness Act also amends the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which already prohibits sex discrimination in pay based on factors other than a seniority system, merit system or pay based on quality and quantity of production.  The PFA goes further by requiring employers to prove they are not discriminating in paying their employees for any reasons based on sex.  For some employers, the risk of liability will not be worth  hiring.  Consequently, the Paycheck Fairness Act could:

  • Create a culture of reluctance to hire anybody who is viewed as a potential litigant under the Paycheck Fairness Act (i.e. women).
  • Create a disincentive for employers to reward employees who produce more or produce better than others in the same job capacity.
  • Create a culture of victimhood as women are perceived as weak and helpless beings who need the long arm of government and the threat of legal action to protect them.

There have been countless times in history when women have rightfully fought for common-sense laws that put them on a level playing field with men and help to promote their worth and capabilities in society.  But in 2013, in a world where most women are still treated like property, the

Paycheck Fairness Act is simply a measure to win political points in reponse to a manufactured problem.

 

Comments (9)

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  1. Kyle says:

    This was well said. Ledbetter’s achievements were on par with Obama receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

  2. Joe Barnett says:

    Allowing workers to share personal information about their salaries will likely lead to pressure from coworkers to share salary information — and retaliation against those workers who refuse to share salary information with their coworkers. Company policies that this bill would outlaw protect employees from intimidation — as well as protect the privacy rights and proprietary information (ie, information they own) of the companies.

  3. Maria Jimenez-Herrera says:

    Pam, you are so right. I don’t want Washington “helping” me any more.

  4. GoodJohnman says:

    @Joe

    In what way could workers retaliate against coworkers that do not share their salary information?

    “Create a culture of reluctance to hire anybody who is viewed as a potential litigant under the Paycheck Fairness Act (i.e. women).”

    1. This is already illegal
    2. If “the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which already prohibits sex discrimination in pay” is true, this culture should already exist. Should we, then, repeal that portion of the Fair Labor Standards Act?

    “Create a disincentive for employers to reward employees who produce more or produce better than others in the same job capacity.”

    Is there a warrant for this argument?

    “Create a culture of victimhood as women are perceived as weak and helpless beings who need the long arm of government and the threat of legal action to protect them.”

    1. So now anyone with federal legal protection is perceived as a weak and helpless being? Should we abolish our entire justice system because it constructs US citizens in this fasion?
    2. This creates a culture where oppressed minorities are NOT helpless and weak, because they can do things like PASS LEGISLATION to protect themselves and punish those who would seek to take advantage of them. Your argument denies the role women play in the creation of government policy, and in doing so constructs the very same paternalistic relationship you seem to wish to avoid.

  5. Pam Villarreal says:

    @GoodJohnman
    To suggesting eliminating the entire justice system because of one poorly designed bill is like comparing apples with oranges. As I said early on, the Paycheck Fairness Act is based on a false premise that, in this decade, women are losing 24 percent of their pay due to discrimination. The Department of Labor, after reviewing 50 peer-reviewed studies, has even concluded that perhaps women are making different choices in their lives that result in pay differences.

    This bill is not about eliminating and/or punishing systematic discrimination that has occurred and been remedied through things as amendments to the Constitution that prohibit slavery and give women the right to vote. It is a more subtle form of discrimination that may not be discrimination at all. Since it is a fact that childless, single urban women in their 20s earn about 8 percent more than their male counterparts, should a law like this apply to men as well? I am most certain that the pay difference I just described is not a result of systematic discrimination against men, and I would venture to say that if a man sued under the PFA he would probably be laughed out of court.

  6. GoodJohnman says:

    Pam,

    I cannot help but note that you have failed to advance the two arguments you presented in your original post about potential harms the legislation might cause. What disadvantage is there to prohibiting this type of discrimination, even if it truly does not exist?

    I also find it hard to believe that there is truly zero wage discrimination against women. It is notable that the one demographic you are able to cite in which the reverse occurs is a very specific group of people. You are correct, an 8% divergence in pay amongst a relatively small demographic obviously does not demonstrate widespread discrimination. The census data you cite in your post, however,demonstrates that on average women are paid 23 percent less then men are. Clearly data that has a very large sample size (ie, the census) goes much further in demonstrating the existence (or non) of widespread discrimination. Is it truly your claim that the massive divergence in pay occurs entirely because women choose it? Do you really believe that zero (as in, absolute zero, not a single instance of)wage discrimination occurs against women? If even one woman is paid less because of her gender, why not provide additional legal recourse, given that the status quo is not addressing her need?

  7. Pam says:

    @GoodJohnman
    I did not say that there is absolutely zero wage discrimination, nor did i say that women choose to be paid less, although some may indirectly do so by sacrificing high-powered careers for other endeavors. What I did imply was that the occupational choices that women make, as well as their family commitments and hours they choose to work impact their wages. “Equal pay for equal work” sounds wonderful, but who gets to decide what is “equal work?” And will the Paycheck Fairness Act cover any perceived or real discrimination among same gender – say – a pretty, thin woman versus an unattractive woman, or a tall woman versus a short woman, or even a tall man versus a short man?

    You ask what disadvantage is there to prohibiting this type of discrimination even if it does not exist? Well, there is cost, for one thing. Even if an employer is not discriminating in any way, the burden will be on the employer to prove that. Even if the employer is innocent, the cost of proving will mean more resources to attorneys and fewer resources to hiring. Also, the Supreme Court tends to have issues with “just because” legislation. Normally, discrimination cases must have standing. Court-approved remedies for discrimination usually require that systematic prime facie discrimination has taken place, and plaintiffs must satisfy four criteria.

    If the PFA does become law, it will be interesting to see how it is viewed by the courts.

  8. Mulligan says:

    Look a few posts back, there was a piece covering tax utility from the NBER. IF you want to get into discriminatory incidence, tall people get paid more than their shorter contemporaries. Is compensation in order?

    Joe could mean something as simple as resentment creating a hostile work environment. Economically speaking, Joe is correct.

    Discriminatory fairness policies are never cut and dry. Affirmative action is an abomination, and is antithetical to free-market principles. Ledbetter, like Chris Kyle, is a good person being used as poster children for political mobilization. It’s disgusting.

    P.S. Inflammatory stuff using a play on the CEO’s name is, for lack of a better word, lame.

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