No sooner had my column posted last week stating that Democrats were plotting to play the gender card this election year by bringing up the so-called “paycheck fairness” issue than out comes an opinion piece in The Washington Post on Sunday by one of the most prominent poster children for it, Lilly Ledbetter, calling on President Obama to sign an executive order for equal pay.
Ledbetter says this action is needed because Congress won’t pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, which in her words, “would help create stronger incentives for employers to pay workers fairly, empower women to negotiate for equal pay and prohibit retaliation against employees who share salary information.”
While it’s true the government has a legitimate role in protecting women from discrimination, federal and state laws already exist that prohibit sex-based discrimination. For a look at how Ms. Ledbetter failed to use those in her own case before the Supreme Court, read here.
Further, employers should be able to decide how they value the work performed for them by their employees, whether they be women or men. But according to Heritage analyst James Sherk, “the Paycheck Fairness Act, in the name of protecting women from discrimination, allows employees to sue businesses that pay different workers different wages—even if those differences have nothing to do with the employees’ sex. These lawsuits can be brought for unlimited damages, giving a windfall to trial lawyers. Any financial benefits they reap, however, would come at the expense of workers. The PFA would hurt the very workers it is meant to help.”
Finally, Ledbetter cites one report as proof the wage gap is a chronic problem, a 2012 study by the American Association of University Women. First, full disclaimer, the AAUW’s executive director has also called on Obama to bypass Congress on this issue. Second, it is only one study. Not overly persuasive when you consider the loads of studies showing a different conclusion.
According to Christina Hoff Sommers of the American Enterprise Institute , “An analysis of more than 50 peer-reviewed papers, commissioned by the Labor Department, found that the so-called wage gap is mostly, and perhaps entirely, an artifact of the different choices men and women make—different fields of study, different professions, different balances between home and work.”
The Supreme Court looked at Ledbetter’s case and concluded the facts didn’t add up. Seems there is a pattern here.