Paycheck Fairness Act: Not good for paychecks or fairness

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

This week the Senate is considering the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to expand “remedies” to sex-based wage discrimination.

In other words, the legislation would allow women to sue for unlimited compensatory and punitive damages, and it would promote class-action lawsuits by requiring workers to opt out, rather than to opt in. This would result in expanded legal liability for employers, smaller paychecks and less fairness for women and men.

Like many ideas from the Left, this legislation is a solution in search of a problem. It would certainly be wrong to suggest that workplace discrimination is entirely extinct, but the PFA presumes the opposite – that men’s earnings outperform women’s solely because of discrimination and that more lawsuits are the fix. Reality is more complex.

If a woman is truly the victim of wage discrimination, she already has the ability to sue. Sex-based wage discrimination has been illegal since the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Proponents of the PFA point out that, despite these longstanding legal protections, women’s earnings continue to lag behind men’s. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average full-time woman’s wages are 81 percent of the average man’s.

This differential, often known as the “wage gap,” is an interesting figure. But importantly, it is not a measure of discrimination toward women. There are many reasons why women – on average – earn less money than men. Basically, women are more willing than men to take greater comfort, safety, leave time and flexibility as tradeoffs for lower pay.

While the BLS calculates the wage gap between men and women, this measure includes everyone who works full time, or more than 35 hours per week. This does not take into account that the average full-time woman works 7.9 hours per day and the average full-time man works 8.5 hours per day.

Men are also more likely to work in dangerous or unpleasant work conditions — which is why the vast majority of work-related deaths are males. This additional risk warrants greater compensation, and the laws of supply and demand bear this out.

The attitude behind the Paycheck Fairness Act completely ignores that women and men may have different preferences and priorities when it comes to pay and jobs. Instead, the PFA sees more lawsuits as the “remedy” for women’s wages.

But greater damages, more class-action lawsuits and increased liability for employers are not the right approach to expanding job opportunities for women. In fact, the PFA is likely to do more to hurt women’s economic outlook than to help.

Employers – especially smaller ones – will face potentially bankrupting lawsuits. As companies divert more resources toward expanded liability insurance, there will be less money leftover to pay workers. The only paychecks that would benefit from PFA are the payouts for trial lawyers. Even worse: Employers will be discouraged from hiring women when they see women as legal risks rather than meritorious workers.

Not only is the Paycheck Fairness Act bad for workers’ paychecks, it is also bad for fairness. Our legal system relies on the philosophy of “innocent until proven guilty.” The PFA inverts that concept by putting the burden of proof on employers to demonstrate that all salary decisions are “job related” and “consistent with business necessity.”

These ambiguous restrictions could discourage employers from paying higher-performing workers more, from allowing employees to take more flexibility in exchange for reduced pay, or from presenting a counter-offer to retain a valuable employee. This means the PFA could lead to stricter pay schedules, less flexibility and less fairness.

Clearly, sex-based wage discrimination is wrong. Furthermore, it’s already illegal. Employers know that, and employees should too. This latest legislation – the Paycheck Fairness Act – won’t lead to more fairness or better pay. It will lead to more lawsuits, more red tape and fewer job opportunities for women and men. The bill has a nice name, but the Paycheck Fairness Act is not good for paychecks, or for fairness.

Comments

Polititainment

Jay-Z's Cuba trip did not violate law
The U.S. Treasury Department apparently fears the wrath of the Beygency as much as the rest of the world. A U.S. Treasury investigation has found Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s 2013 Cuba trip did not violate sanctions law. Beyoncé and Jay-Z, close friends of the Obamas,  had obtained permission to visit the blacklisted country from the Treasury’s Office […]
'Harry Potter' made youth more liberal
Millennials grew up in the wizarding world of Harry Potter. Deciding who was the Hermione, Harry and Ron in your friend group, wishing for the end of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and  knowing that the correct way to say the “leviosa” spell is “levi-OH-sa” was built into the fabric of  our collective childhood. Apparently Harry and friends are […]
Obama once killed a 'SNL' sketch
Presidents, first ladies and all types of political candidates have been both frequent guests and the butt of jokes on “Saturday Night Live.” The Hollywood Reporter published an excerpt Wednesday of the updated edition of the Saturday Night Live oral history, “Live From New York,” written by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales and it featured a lot of juicy details about […]
Christie defends use of Boss' music

Chris Christie saw The Boss just a week ago, and there's no beef about the guv using his tunes, thank you very much.

Fallon wishes Clinton Happy Birthday

Jimmy Fallon took a second to wish former President Bill Clinton a happy 68th birthday during his episode of   "The Tonight Show" Tuesday. The comedian honored Clinton appropriately by poking fun at him.

White House

Government watchdog says Bergdahl swap was not only illegal, it was doubly illegal

Congress' chief watchdog said that the U.S. prisoner swap involving Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl violated two laws in a report issued Thursday.

10 photos of President Obama in his office that will restore your faith in the presidency

Smile already, America. Your commander in chief is in the driver's seat.

Newt Gingrich: Obama’s ‘golf problem’ is that he stinks when he’s not playing it

"If the economy was growing, the border was controlled, the Middle East was stabilizing and there were no outbreaks of violence in the streets of major American cities, no one would comment on the number of golf games President Obama played."

Obama heads back to vacation after unexplained DC trip
THE HILL – President Obama went back to his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard Tuesday evening following less than 48 hours in Washington, leaving people puzzled over why he came back in the first place. Obama’s two days in Washington were mostly quiet, and concluded with the president receiving his daily national security briefing in the morning, […]
President Obama ‘didn’t know’ the Missouri governor was calling National Guard to Ferguson

As has been the case with so many crises that have faced America during Obama's time in the White House, it appears the president has learned about the Missouri Governor calling the National Guard to Ferguson on the news.

Congress

McConnell’s plan to shut down Obama
POLITICO – Mitch McConnell has a game plan to confront President Barack Obama with a stark choice next year: Accept bills reining in the administration’s policies or veto them and risk a government shutdown. In an extensive interview here, the typically reserved McConnell laid out his clearest thinking yet of how he would lead the Senate […]
See the 'Best of' Pelosi's incoherent babbles
Whether she is spouting off about  “race ha[ving] something to do” with the Republican stance on immigration or charging across the U.S. House floor to call a fellow representative “insignificant,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is known for saying some crazy things. Roll Call has compiled some of Pelosi’s greatest hits from 2014 in a video […]
Voters do not believe Congress deserves reelection
Most Americans do not believe current members of Congress deserve to be reelected, a new poll finds. A Gallup poll released Monday found that only 19 percent of registered voters say most members of Congress deserve to be reelected. This the second lowest figure since Gallup first started asking the question in 1992. People feel more […]
Schock outlines how GOP can attract millennials
Positive messaging, reaching out in person, and uniting the party behind strong economic policies are all ways Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) thinks the Republican party can win over millennial voters. Schock appeared on CNN Friday to talk with conservative commentator S.E. Cupp about winning young voters. As the second-youngest member of the House of Representatives at […]
Rep. Justin Amash defends his bold victory speech
After a bitter primary fight, Rep. Justin Amash (R- Mich.) delivered a bold victory speech in which he skewered his opponent last week. The Congressman has taken plenty of heat for his less-than-gracious words, but Amash is not backing down. Amash wrote an op-ed in the Grand Rapids Press Thursday to defend his statements and to […]