The Senate (which remains Democratic after the election) failed to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act yesterday. While the Senate had the votes to pass the measure, which passed the House 2 years ago, it lacked enough of a majority to invoke cloture, and shut down a Republican filibuster. The Republican argument is that this law would encourage litigation and impose damages on employers. The other side is that if an employer is discriminating against women in wage rates, it should have to answer for the disparity. The Equal Pay Act “has not worked as Congress originally intended,” according to the findings of the bill. Under the bill, employers who enforce secrecy about their employees’ wages could be liable for a retaliation claim. The White House and the Department of Labor issued statements registering their disappointment.
The Republican opposition argues that this law would encourage litigation and impose damages on small employers. Opponents also argue that the wage disparity is explained by “personal choices” (yes! Back to family responsibility discrimination!) that lead women to opt for part-time work more often than men, or take leaves from their career paths.
An interesting article addresses this popular belief, and dispels its logical force with data. After taking into account part-time work, length of employment, and other factors relating to the “mommy track,” the effect of discrimination is still stronger than the laws of supply and demand. One interesting example arises in the field of nursing. Nursing instructors (mostly women) earn less than males college instructors teaching other courses. The disparity is so great that nursing teachers earn less than nurses, therefore it is hard to fill the teaching positions. Hence, the nursing shortage.