Nothing Fair About the “Paycheck Fairness Act”

The House of Representatives recently passed a bill called the Paycheck Fairness Act, which is being sold to the public on false pretenses.  Its supporters claim they are just attempting to restore force to antidiscrimination laws supposedly undermined by “conservative” Supreme Court decisions.  But pay discrimination is already against the law.  More importantly, the bill’s provisions mandate things that no Supreme Court justice, liberal or conservative, has ever held is appropriate under federal civil-rights laws, like allowing recovery of massive emotional-distress and punitive damages for unintentional “disparate impact” discrimination (which have never been available under federal law, which limits relief in such cases to backpay and equitable remedies).  The Washington Examiner analyzes the bill, and concludes that it is a “bounteous windfall” for “trial lawyers.”

The Paycheck Fairness Act also rigs the criteria for determining whether pay is discriminatory, by ignoring factors that might provide an innocent explanation for why a male employee is paid more than a female one — like the dangerous and unpleasant nature of the job (most jobs with high-mortality or injury rates, like being a lumberjack, fisherman, cab driver, or coal miner, are overwhelmingly male, while low-risk clerical jobs are performed predominantly by women).   As former Chief Labor Department economist Diana Furchtgott-Roth explains, “the bill’s language omits experience, risk, inflexibility of work schedule, or physical strength, factors that increase men’s wages relative to women’s. The bill does not include effort, so there is little leeway to promote those who work harder.”

I earlier commented on the mendacity of Congressional attacks on the Supreme Court’s interpretation of federal laws banning pay discrimination, and how many in the media promote myths about what the Supreme Court actually held in its decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear.