As you probably know, President Obama made a quick trip to Charlotte in mid-April to address a variety of family issues. He placed particular emphasis on childhood education, health insurance, and disparity in pay between men and women.
He lauded the controversial proposed Paycheck Fairness Act and chided Congress for not passing this legislation. The bill was introduced in 2013, and the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions held hearings in April of 2014. It does not appear to be likely that it will go anywhere.
This bill, which is an amendment to the Equal Pay Act, is intended to address male/female pay disparity in the workplace. To drive his point home, the President discussed his grandmother being the primary wage earner in his family, yet she was paid less than males in comparable roles. He also talked about his two teenage daughters, and how he hopes they will get equal pay for equal education when they enter the workforce.
You have heard me say this before, and I will say it again. If you read the Paycheck Fairness Act, I believe any rational person would be a supporter of the bill. While there is much debate about the extent of income inequality between males and females, there is a high probability that it does exist to some degree, and that needs to be rectified.
However, we already have several laws in place that address the issue of pay disparity between males and females. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, and the Lilly Ledbetter Pay Act of 2009 all address the issue of pay equity. And the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 says that a company cannot stop its employees from discussing pay issues. (Be sure to check your company handbook to make sure you do not have any written policy to the contrary.) President Obama touted freer sharing of information about income as being one of the key points of the Paycheck Fairness Act; but as you can see, it is already addressed under another law.
Many of the points that are spelled out in the Paycheck Fairness Act are already covered to some degree in other laws. We don’t need another new law which would invariably create more lawsuits.
We still have a variety of issues in today’s workplaces that need to be addressed; and legislation may be the answer, in some cases. But the Paycheck Fairness Act is not one of them. We need to improve the awareness of our existing laws, and then aggressively enforce the laws that are already on the books. Think about it.
Kenny Colbert, SPHR, SHRM-SCP
President & CEO
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