August 13, 2008 in Business

THE WORKPLACE

 

Employer organizations such as the Society for Human Resource Management are inundating congressional offices with form letters opposing the Paycheck Fairness Act.

U.S. representatives have received thousands of form letters from members of the society, as well as from local Human Resource Management Association chapters, the National Association of Manufacturers and chambers of commerce.

Opposition to the bill is dwarfing support from such organizations as the National Women’s Law Center.

The bill, which has 230 co-sponsors in the House, is an attempt to remedy pay discrimination against women. Despite significant progress, women as a group still earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men.

An earlier Equal Pay Act tried in 1963 to help close the gap by providing for “equal pay for equal work,” but advocates for wage parity say it didn’t go far enough.

It permitted employers to justify pay disparities based on seniority, merit, quality or quantity of work, or “any factor other than sex.”

Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the women’s law center, said courts have interpreted the “any factor” test so broadly that it is difficult to prove pay discrimination or compensate women who were found to have had wage disparities.

The bill, H.R. 1338, would require that compensation be more transparent and employers be held more accountable for pay discrimination.

The act could expose employers to more class-action lawsuits and to liability for unlimited punitive and compensatory damages in pay discrimination cases.

In short, don’t expect passage. Beyond the massive employer outpouring against it and the attachment of unrelated but hot-button issues, there’s one more element in the bill that rankles employers to no end.

The bill would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who disclose their own or co-workers’ pay information.

If that provision becomes law, pay discrimination might be difficult to hide.

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