President Pushes for Anti-Opportunity Paycheck Fairness Act

The White House theme on Thursday was economic opportunity for woman, with messaging pegged to a new National Economic Council document, “Jobs and Economic Securityfor America’s Women,” President Obama’s “backyard” event in Seattle, and his campaigning for Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).

Unfortunately, in its highlighting of the Paycheck Fairness Act, the White House’s messaging Thursday conflicts with the President’s overarching theme, that of economic recovery and jobs growth. At the same time, the messaging reminds the public of the political power of the litigation lobby.

The White House blog listed the Paycheck Fairness Act as No. 2 in its list, following Lilly Ledbetter Act Fair Pay Act, in its list, “10 Ways Our Economic Policies Benefit Women.”

It’s weird to be boasting about a bill that hasn’t passed yet. But more importantly, the legislation would lead to a more stagnant labor market, transfer more business wealth into the pockets of trial lawyers, and raise marginal costs of each new hire. A White House concerned about jobs should be renouncing the bill, not touting it.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would extend the federal government’s control over employers’ personnel decisions through rigid “pay equity” mandates and then expanding the grounds for litigation for even unintentional violations. In making hiring and salary decisions, an employer’s chief concern would not be whether the person is worth the price in the competitive labor market, but rather, “Am I going to get sued?”

As the National Association of Manufacturers’ 2009 “Key Vote” letter to the House explained:

By removing all limits to punitive and compensatory damage awards on claims made under the Equal Pay Act (EPA), the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 12) would expose employers to increased threats of litigation – even when unintentional pay disparities may have occurred. Its passage would likely prompt many employers to purchase additional legal liability insurance, increasing their costs and decreasing their ability to raise wages, increase benefits or hire new U.S. House of Representatives workers. In fact, it is difficult to imagine a scenario in which the bill would not lead to lower wages and fewer jobs.

Senate Majority Leader Reid re-introduced the Senate version of the bill, S. 3722, in late September and filed cloture for possible Senate consideration in a lame-duck session of Congress. We tend to think the maneuvering is more about exciting the political base than actually pushing through the bill in a very crowded, riven post-election Congress.

Still, for employers it’s hard to ignore: A President campaigning on expanded economic opportunities for women by touting legislation that would diminish opportunities for men and women, both.

Join the discussion One Comment

  • MaleMatters says:

    Good piece!

    Nothing has worked to close the gender wage gap — not the Equal Pay for Equal Work Act, not affirmative action, not diversity… Nor will the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act work. The wage gap will stubbornly persist because pay-equity advocates stubbornly ignore this:

    Despite the 40-year-old demand for women’s equal pay, millions of wives still choose to have no pay at all. In fact, according to Dr. Scott Haltzman, author of “The Secrets of Happily Married Women,” stay-at-home wives, including the childless, constitute a growing niche. “In the past few years,” he says in a CNN August 2008 report at http://tinyurl.com/6reowj, “many women who are well educated and trained for career tracks have decided instead to stay at home.” (“Census Bureau data show that 5.6 million mothers stayed home with their children in 2005, about 1.2 million more than did so a decade earlier….” at http://tinyurl.com/qqkaka. Perhaps more women are staying at home because feminists and the media have told them relentlessly for years that women are paid less than men in the same jobs, and so why bother working if they’re going to be penalized and humiliated for being a woman.)

    As full-time mothers or homemakers, stay-at-home wives earn zero. How can they afford to do this while in many cases living in luxury? Because they’re supported by their husband.

    If millions of wives can accept no wages and live as well as their husbands, millions of other wives can accept low wages, refuse to work overtime, refuse promotions, take more unpaid days off, avoid uncomfortable wage-bargaining — all of which lowers women’s average pay. They can do this because they are supported by husbands who must earn more than if they’d remained single — which is how MEN help create the wage gap. (If the roles were reversed so that men raised the children and women raised the income, men would average lower pay than women.)

    By the way, the next Equal Occupational Fatality Day is in 2020. The year 2020 is how far into the future women will have to work to experience the same number of work-related deaths that men experienced in 2009 alone. See http://tinyurl.com/yab2blv

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