October 16 2012
On October 11, The Federalist Society held a panel discussion at The National Press Club on Lilly Ledbetter (who lost her pay discrimination case in the Supreme Court because she failed to comply with a statutory deadline) and the media’s oversimplification of gender issues. It featured Jennifer Braceras, a columnist and former Commissioner for the U.S. Commission of Civil Rights, Fatima Goss Graves, Vice President for Education and Employment at the National Women’s Law Center, Marcia Greenberger, co-President of the National Women’s Law Center, and Sabrina Schaeffer, who serves as the Executive Director for the Independent Women’s Forum.
The discussion, moderated by Curt Levey, President of the Committee for Justice, was more policy based and how it influences our political discourse. Levey asked all four panelists how they felt about Lilly Ledbetter and the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act expanded the statute of limitations concerning lawsuits related to discriminatory pay. The Paycheck Fairness Act mandated that employers must detail why they have a discriminatory pay scale.
According to Fatima Graves, a liberal on the panel, it’s a question of fairness. If employers were able to hide documentation of discriminatory pay, then no new remedies could be enacted to combat this issue. She feels that this is what resonated with the American people. After all, Ledbetter was passed on a bipartisan basis in Congress and is supported across party lines publicly. Sabrina Schaeffer had a different assessment.
While she acknowledges that the Obama administration and liberals feel this is a victory for women, it’s merely a political strategy aimed at attracting voters for coalitions. However, given that 51% of the U.S. population is female, it’s wise, especially for Republicans, not to make any comments or construct policies that are viewed as “anti-women.” Sadly, some folks, like Todd Akin, don’t seem to comprehend this concept.
Regardless, Schaeffer was adamant that Ledbetter’s expansion of the statute of limitation isn’t a preventative measure to stop pay discrimination. She also reiterated other pieces of legislation, such as the Equal Pay Act, which has a three year statute of limitations for pay and two year statute for sexual discrimination, that deal more directly with discriminatory pay.
However, she noted how Ledbetter will make costs to employ women, especially to working mothers, making this another episode in the annals of how government regulation makes it more expensive for American enterprise to operate. Additionally, Schaeffer is skeptical of the law’s impact since only forty lawsuits have been filed under Ledbetter proper.
Jennifer Braceras was more forceful in her analysis, and declared that there is no “war on women.” It’s a “silly” and “absurd” narrative since women are outperforming men in many areas of the economy. She claimed that Ledbetter is a case about a technicality and when the clock on the statute of limitations starts running. As for the socioeconomic health of women, she reiterated the notion that the “world is their oyster.”
The “war on women,” according to Ms. Braceras, is a political catchphrase meant to scare young and single women. Lastly, alluding to the Sandra Fluke apologists within American liberalism, she noted that no one is trying to restrict access to birth control. It’s a question about who should pay for it.
Marcia Greenberger, who also represented the liberal view, prevaricated in her analysis and said that there is ” a war on policies critically important to women.” She recollected Ledbetter’s story on how she would have never have know about the pay disparity if it weren’t for an anonymous note. It was forbidden to discuss salaries and compensation at Goodyear. Now, under The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the statute of limitations begins 180 days after the last discriminatory paycheck.
Greenberger mentions the Family Medical Leave Act, which she says is popular, but limited in its application. It’s only good for companies with 50 or more employees. She implored that a discussion was desperately needed to analyze the policies and how they effect the day to day lives of these women in question.
Ms. Braceras retorted by saying that it’s how the media frames the issue. And in this case, it’s a deliberate messaging strategy that is pushed by the liberal media and disseminated by their allies within the feminist movement and other left-wing affiliates.
She also noted liberals’ penchant to ignore facts. She recalled the past Democratic National Convention where Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick praised President Obama for his work in accomplishing equal pay for equal work. However, such a law has been in place since 1963. Obama didn’t make that happen.
Concerning the pay gap, which Ms. Schaeffer countered by saying that when you factor in single, urban women – they make 8% more than their male counterparts. When you include all college educated women, the pay gap shrinks from 77 cents to a man’s dollar earned to 97 cents for women. Yet, Ms. Graves pointed out that any one of these statistics could be fudged to convey any particular point of view. In the end, you can “slice and dice” the data all you want – women still experience a pay disparity when compared to their male counterparts.
As the discussion moved from pay disparity to contraception and health care, Mr. Levey asked do we want judges making the distinctions and becoming the ultimate deciders in these areas? Ms.Graves stated that it’s not from thin air that judges make determinations. It’s not a judge determining what are appropriate practices for business, but reasons why a business has a pay disparity. At this point, Ms. Greenberger interjected and noted the disparity within women in the workplace regarding their health care coverage from their employers.
Greenberger noted that married men and single women could get health coverage, with employer paid contraception, but such a policy is denied to married working women since it’s assumed their husbands would provide for them. She noted the religious connotations in this decision process that centers on the male being the head of the household.
While Greenberger noted the inherent unfairness, Braceras mentioned the HHS mandate, which Greenberger supported, by saying it forced religious institutions to pay for something that went against their doctrinal beliefs. It’s shameless. If a particular policy bothers you at the workplace, you are within your right to leave that employer.
Schaeffer returned to false narrative of the war on women to show how this wouldn’t have been an issue if the Republican Party didn’t win the women’s vote in 2010. After all, women aren’t a homogeneous voting bloc. The largest bloc of voters in the female demographic are married women, which McCain won by 4 points in 2008. However, Obama won singles by a margin of 72% to 27% – which prompted the political left to pour resources into political messaging to solidify that constituency.
Braceras reiterated what pollsters have been saying and that is women will decide the upcoming presidential election. But noted that the war on women messaging strategy would still have been executed by liberals.
Greenberger noted that polls depend on how the questions are asked and noted that a majority of the public feel that contraception should be included in all health care plans. She then recollected Sandra Fluke’s denial to speak at the House Oversight Committee hearing of contraception. The reason she was denied is because she’s a law student, not an expert. Second, she’s a left-wing hack. For Sandra Fluke, this isn’t her first time to the dance. Although, Greenberger felt otherwise.
She later testified at the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee about the hardships women face obtaining birth control, including it’s prohibitive costs, which Braceras noted could be easily ascertained at Walmart for $10 a week.
Graves then stated that while women’s issues are important – they often become general economic issues.
However, one question that I aim at the liberal wing of this panel is how do they reconcile their beliefs with the politicians on their side of this issue who betray the principles they advocate daily in the public sphere.
Hans Bader of the Competitive Enterprise Institute noted that:
Ms. Ledbetter knew about the pay disparity she later sued over for 5 years before filing an EEOC complaint over it, contrary to her later false claim, parroted by the Obama Administration and some in the media, that she only discovered the pay disparity right before suing. Thus, it was her own delay, not unreasonableness by the Supreme Court, that resulted in her losing her pay discrimination case. The Supreme Court’s decision did not say that the statutory deadline must be applied rigidly in all cases, but in fact, left open the possibility that the deadline could be extended in appropriate circumstances, in footnote 10 of its ruling. It also noted that Ledbetter could have pressed her claim instead under another law, the Equal Pay Act, which has a longer deadline for suing.
Ledbetter learned of the pay disparity by 1992, as excerpts from her deposition, filed with the Supreme Court as part of the Joint Appendix, illustrate. In response to the question: “So you knew in 1992 that you were being paid less than your peers?” she answered simply “yes, sir.” (See Joint Appendix at pg. 233; page 123 of Ledbetter’s deposition). But she only filed a legal complaint over it in July 1998, shortly before her retirement later that year.
Furthermore, relating back to Bracera’s point about the war on women, Bader stated that during last week’s Vice Presidential debate “Joel Gerhke of the Washington Examiner…noted that the ACLU was asking supporters to get Joe Biden to raise the war on women theme — but it didn’t focus on pay discrimination, but rather abortion/contraception, although it shares the Obama Administration’s position on both sets of issues.”
Furthermore, concerning the female members of the Democratic Senate Caucus, they pay their female staffers significantly less. Andrew Stiles at The Washington Free Beacon wrote back in May that:
Of the five senators who participated in Wednesday’s press conference—Barbara Mikulski (D., Md.), Patty Murray (D., Wash.), Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.)—three pay their female staff members significantly less than male staffers.
Murray, who has repeatedly accused Republicans of waging a “war a women,” is one of the worst offenders. Female members of Murray’s staff made about $21,000 less per year than male staffers in 2011, a difference of 33.8 percent.
That is well above the 23 percent gap that Democrats claim exists between male and female workers nationwide. The figure is based on a 2010 U.S. Census Bureau report, and is technically accurate. However, as CNN’s Lisa Sylvester has reported, when factors such as area of employment, hours of work, and time in the workplace are taken into account, the gap shrinks to about 5 percent.
A significant “gender gap” exists in Feinstein’s office, where women also made about $21,000 less than men in 2011, but the percentage difference—41 percent—was even higher than Murray’s.
Boxer’s female staffers made about $5,000 less, a difference of 7.3 percent.
When the Paycheck Fairness Act failed in the Senate, Sen. Boxer’s office released this statement:
Senate Republicans let down the women of America – and their families – by refusing to stand up for the basic principle of equal pay for equal work. But just as we didn’t quit when Republicans tried to defeat the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, we are not going to stop fighting until the Paycheck Fairness Act becomes the law of the land.
Yes, Sen. Boxer leading the charge for equal pay, while paying her female staffers $5,000 less than their male counterparts.
other notable Senators whose ‘gender pay gap’ was larger than 23 percent [include]:
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.)—47.6 percent
- Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D., N.M.)—40 percent
- Sen. Jon Tester (D., Mont.)—34.2 percent
- Sen. Ben Cardin (D., Md.)—31.5 percent
- Sen. Tom Carper (D., Del.)—30.4 percent
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.)–29.7 percent
- Sen. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.)–29.2 percent
- Sen. Bill Nelson (D., Fla.)—26.5 percent
- Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore)—26.4 percent
- Sen. Tom Harkin (D., Iowa)—23.2 percent
Sen. Sanders, who is an avowed socialist who caucuses with the Democrats, has the worst gender gap by far. He employed more men (14) than women (10), and his chief of staff is male. Like many of his fellow partisans, he has previously accused Republicans of ‘trying to roll back the clock on women’s rights.’
Can you smell the hypocrisy?