A "paycheck fairness" bill under consideration in the US Senate would make it easier for women to file class-action, punitive-damages suits against employers they accuse of sex-based pay discrimination.
But the bill isn't as commonsensical as it might seem. It overlooks mountains of research showing that discrimination plays little role in pay disparities between men and women, and it threatens to impose onerous requirements on employers to correct gaps over which they have little control, says Christina Hoff Sommers, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.
The bill is based on the premise that the 1963 Equal Pay Act, which bans sex discrimination in the workplace, has failed; for proof, proponents point out that for every dollar men earn, women earn just 77 cents.
But that wage gap isn't necessarily the result of discrimination there are lots of other reasons men might earn more than women, including differences in education, experience and job tenure.
When these factors are taken into account the gap narrows considerably in some studies, to the point of vanishing.
A recent survey found that young, childless, single urban women earn 8 per cent more than their male counterparts, mostly because more of them earn college degrees.
Moreover, a 2009 analysis of wage-gap studies commissioned by the Labour Department concluded that the aggregate wage gap "may be almost entirely the result of the individual choices being made by both male and female workers."
The Paycheck Fairness bill would set women against men, empower trial lawyers and activists, perpetuate falsehoods about the status of women in the workplace and create havoc in a precarious job market, says Hoff Summers.
Source: Christina Hoff Sommers, Fair Pay Isn't Always Equal Pay, New York Times, September 21, 2010.
For text: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/22/opinion/22Sommers.html
For more on Employment Issues: http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_Category=30
First published by the National Center for Policy Analysis, United States
FMF Policy Bulletin/ 28 September 2010