As is typical in a State of the Union address, the President touched Wednesday on a number of themes, domestic and foreign. But he specifically alluded to two employment issues that have a lot of resonance in a post-Bush era.
“We are going to crack down on violations of equal pay laws — so that women get equal pay for an equal day’s work.” Nice words; in actuality it has proved difficult for women to prevail on equal pay laws, which require the genders to be paid equal pay for equal work, where the jobs require equal skill, effort, responsibility, and working conditions. Although cases say that the jobs need to be “substantially” equal, courts have too often required women to show that the male who is making more money is doing the identical job, and has identical qualifications. There are always some differences between people. Proving that two jobs are substantially equal is nearly impossible at higher levels, like vice presidents. Yet when a woman at the same level of a corporate organization chart makes $30,000 less than her peer, there should be some redress. Let’s hope the President’s promise comes with some improved legislation.
In the inspirational department, the President said this:
“Abroad, America’s greatest source of strength has always been our ideals. The same is true at home. We find unity in our incredible diversity, drawing on the promise enshrined in our Constitution: the notion that we are all created equal, that no matter who you are or what you look like, if you abide by the law you should be protected by it; that if you adhere to our common values you should be treated no different than anyone else. We must continually renew this promise. My Administration has a Civil Rights Division that is once again prosecuting civil rights violations and employment discrimination.”
Again, nicely stated. But there are plenty of indications that the enforcement has been ratcheted up at the federal level, by both the EEOC and the Department of Justice.