At the moment it’s unclear if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will bring the Paycheck Fairness Act up in the Senate before Congress adjourns for the mid-term elections. What is clear is the Administration’s strong support for the legislation that will do little to address actual instances of illegal discrimination. What’s even clearer is that the legislation will not help manufacturers create jobs.
On Tuesday, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Lilly Ledbetter, the plaintiff in the Ledbetter Supreme Court decisions and political activist who has lobbied for the legislation named in her honor, hosted what was billed as a Department of Labor webcast. Usually Labor Department webcasts are a forum for the public to ask questions of senior Department officials on key issues like the Department’s budget requests and regulatory agenda. Tuesday’s event was much different. This “webcast” was a streaming video feed of a discussion by the Secretary and Ms. Ledbetter on their support for the Paycheck Fairness Act. There were several participants in the audience, assumingly there upon the invitation of the Department. Our invitation must have been lost in the mail. It appeared that most in the room were supporters of the legislation who tossed softball questions to the Secretary.
If I were in the room there would’ve been many questions that I would’ve liked to ask, such as:
- Ms. Secretary – you expressed the need to gather more data about the alleged pay gap, however it appears as though the Department of Labor has removed an important analysis of pay equity issues as the Obama Administration transitioned into effect. Wouldn’t it be helpful for the Department to analyze existing research it commissioned?
- Ms. Secretary – the Administration continues claim that women’s wages only constitute 77 percent of men’s wages. However your Department recently published updated data that shows that the pay gap is narrowing. Why do you continue to use outdated information?
- Ms. Ledbetter- You claim that the Paycheck Fairness would allow employees to freely discuss their paychecks. However isn’t this employee right already protected in the National Labor Relations Act as one of many “protected concerted activities”?
- Ms. Secretary – Data from the EEOC shows that 95 percent of discrimination claims against employers do not have grounds. Even though most of these claims are meritless employers still need defend themselves against these costly allegations. Are you concerned that passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act may encourage more suits to be filed against employers that may not have merit?
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