Paycheck Fairness Act Will Hurt Women
The bill reinforces the idea that women are a victim class in need of special government protection
May 4, 2012
Passing the Paycheck Fairness Act is the Democrats' next battle in advancing the War on Women mantra this election season. But this law will not create equal pay; it will expand the definition of "wage discrimination," make it easier to file class-action lawsuits, and open businesses up to greater litigation and uncertainty—all of which would be devastating to job creation. Ultimately, this bill will hurt women, who will become far more costly to employ.
Often overlooked during these debates over the PFA is the fact that there are already two federal laws in place to protect employees from gender-based wage discrimination—the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Equal Pay Act (1963).
What's more, the PFA is based on the premise of the so-called wage gap: the notion that women earn 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. This gap is highly exaggerated. When controlling for variables like education, college major, or time spent out of the workforce this gap largely disappears. The fact is discrimination is no longer a significant reason why women earn, on average, less than men.
The differences in pay between men and women come down to choices. Choices women—and men—make have costs. More women than men choose to take time off to raise a family, but that's a far cry from discrimination. And costs are the result of a woman's freedom, not an injustice imposed on her by society.
If passed, the PFA would limit the reasons employers could give for salary differences, making it easier for employees to file suits, but also making the workplace less flexible and making it nearly impossible for employers to tie compensation to work quality. And Democrats want to do this at a time when government should be backing off and allowing businesses to make hiring decisions that make the most sense.
While Democrats frame this in terms of "protecting" women, they overlook the fact that women--and their families--benefit tremendously from a flexible work environment. For instance, some women may choose to accept a lower salary if it means they have the ability to work part-time, flexible hours, or from home. PFA will discourage employers from making such options available.
There are bad employers out there who might still discriminate. But in the aggregate, women are outperforming men in terms of college-graduation rates, advanced degrees, purchasing power, and increasingly in earnings. Bills like the PFA do little to help women; instead they advance the notion that the workplace and society are openly hostile to women and reinforce the idea that women are a victim class in need of special government protection.