Republicans oppose equal pay for equal work. Senate Republicans blocked three times.
Last week, Republican Senators Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) and Susan Collins (ME) joined Deb Fischer (R-NB) and Shelly Moore Capito (W. VA) introduced a shiny object substitute for equal pay called The Workplace Advancement Act.
The GOP’s poor imitation of the Paycheck Fairness Act, is more about optics than about substance, as reflected in Deb Fischer’s statement on the proposed law.
Any legislator – Republican or Democrat – who is seriously interested in making progress on this issue for women and moving past electioneering and scoring political points should step up and support the proposal. For the first time in over half a century, we have the opportunity to update the Equal Pay Act with a bill that actually provides needed changes and can realistically pass.
The fact is if Republicans were serious about paycheck fairness, they would have either voted for the Paycheck Fairness Act or at least offered a bill that offers real solutions.
This bill doesn’t even recognize that gender-based pay discrimination is a fact at all income levels and in all job categories. It merely states, “surveys suggest there is a concern among American women that gender-based pay discrimination still exists.”
The fact is while we can try to explain pay discrimination away because women took time off to care for children and family members, or we just gravitate to low paying jobs, when women hold the same title and job experience as a man, a wage gap persists. The gap narrows as you go further up the corporate ladder, but it continues to exist even at the top of that ladder.
A recent study on pay discrimination against women executives showed that
- Women in executive positions receive less incentive pay than men. That accounts for roughly 93% of the gender pay gap.
- Compensation for women in executive positions has “lower pay-performance sensitive” compared to males.
- Compensation for female executives is more exposed to declines in the firm’s value and less exposed to increases in the firm’s value than that of male executives.”
The Republican version of an equal pay bill falls way short of the Democrat’s Paycheck Fairness Act. That bill contained several important features. It mandated employers to provide the Federal government with wage data broken down by gender. It called for programs to help women with negotiation skills. It also provided assistance to help women sue to get back pay they were denied exclusively because they were discriminated against by their employers.
The one feature the Republican version holds in common with the Paycheck Fairness Act, is the language that makes it illegal for employers to retaliate against employees for talking about their salaries.
The thing is, this bill doesn’t allow any legal recourse for women to sue their boss upon finding out they were paid less than male counterparts. After all, giving women the ability to sue to rectify the situation would just be “bait” for trial lawyers and we certainly can’t have that!
The bill allows pay disparities based on “merit” or “any factor other than sex”. As we saw in Ellen Pao’s case, that’s a pretty difficult, if not outright impossible thing to argue against. In other words, between the lack of enforceability and the legal cover that employers can use to continue gender-based discriminatory pay practices, the Republican bill preserves the very unfairness they say they are trying to address.
The Republicans are hoping that women will fall for shiny object equality. They’re fine with us finding the proof that we are paid lower than male counterparts; they just have a problem with us using the law to do anything about it.
The politics of this are even more sinister, though consistent with the Republican Party’s playbook.
They are trying to bait Democrats into voting for a bill that does nothing to address gender-based pay discrimination. If they do, Republicans will claim credit for letting us talk to our co-workers about salary, as a solution to gender-based pay discrimination. If they don’t, Republicans will do what they usually do – project their opposition to paycheck fairness onto the Democrats.
The reality is; women know the difference between shiny object pay equality and the real thing.