Everyone loves the party game/icebreaker “two truths and a lie.”
Can you identify which of the following is NOT true about the Paycheck Fairness Act (PFA)?
A. Currently, the wage gap between women and men is 80 cents on the dollar.
B. The PFA would outlaw sex-based wage discrimination.
C. The PFA would increase costly lawsuits against employers and make workplaces less flexible.
Let’s take these statements one at a time:
A. TRUTH! It is true that the wage gap is about 80 cents on the dollar. However, this statistic is widely misused. The wage gap isn’t a measure of equal pay for equal work. It is a comparison of averages, without any regard for profession, education, experience, hours, or working conditions. Men tend to do work in professions that pay more, and they work longer hours and in more dangerous working conditions (on average) than women. Read more here.
B. LIE! Here is a link to the text of the Paycheck Fairness Act. It doesn’t actually outlaw discrimination. Sex-based wage discrimination is already illegal. Both the Equal Pay Act (1963) and the Civil Rights Act (1964) protect women’s right to earn equal pay for equal work.
C. TRUTH! The Paycheck Fairness Act wouldn’t help women’s paychecks, but it would boost the paychecks of trial lawyers. The PFA would invert our justice system by requiring employers to essentially prove their innocence with regard to pay discrimination. It would un-limit the damages for employers with pay disparities and would empower the government to more closely track pay data. It would also require employees to opt out of (rather than into) class action suits against employers.
All of this increased legal exposure would discourage employers from hiring and promoting women and from offering flexible work arrangements (that often come with the mutually-agreeable tradeoff of lower pay). Even the Washington Post editorial board said of the PFA in 2009, it “invites too much intrusion and interference in core business decisions…Discrimination is abhorrent, but the Paycheck Fairness Act is not the right fix.”
Of course we all want women to have adequate protections in the workplace. But the incorrectly-named Paycheck Fairness Act would not be fair… It would ultimately go too far and end up hurting the very women it is intended to help.