A Democratic bill to give federal bureaucrats a larger role in determining who should get paid failed to advance in the Senate on Tuesday as Republicans used the filibuster to put the so-called Paycheck Fairness Act into the vast trash bin of failed legislation.
The legislation sought to limit the factors employers could use in defending themselves against wage discrimination claims, according to The Hill. It aimed to create a grant program to train women on salary negotiations and fund public education on wage discrimination
“I don’t think it’s a good bill,” Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina told Politico. “We have three statutes on the books that don’t allow pay discrepancy today. We need a fourth one?”
The bill would be “exploiting the cause of pay fairness to send a windfall to trial lawyers,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on the Senate floor.
He also said the legislation was a sign that the “era of bipartisanship is over,” as not one Republican senator supported the proposal.
“I think that’s coming to a screeching halt this month because the majority leader is starting with the so-called Paycheck Fairness bill late this afternoon, which is essentially a giveaway to the plaintiffs lawyers in America, a series of totally partisan bills designed to get no Republican support,” McConnell said.
Federal data shows that on average, women were paid about 82 percent of what their male counterparts earned in 2020. However, even the American Association of University Women noted that individuals contribute to that through their career choices.
“Male-dominated industries tend to have higher wages than industries and occupations made up mostly of female workers,” the AAUW said on its website.
But Democrats said women simply need to be paid more.
“We’re hearing about how women are not returning to the market right now because of a number of reasons, including that they just aren’t getting paid enough to pay for child care and the other challenges they have,” Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, who sponsored the Senate version of the legislation, told Politico. “So if we want our economy to grow, we need to pay women what they’re worth.”
The pitch fell flat.
“At this stage of the game, it is a no,” Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota said. “In my state, we’re a right-to-work state. We’re going to have lots of opportunities over the next couple of years to find consensus on different ideas. If you can’t find consensus on these issues, these aren’t going anyplace. Everybody knows that.”
Democrats said the bill’s failure was a reason to abolish the filibuster.
“Senate Republicans’ decision to block the Paycheck Fairness Act is an insult to the millions of women who are doing the same job as their male counterparts for lower pay,” Democratic Rep. Bobby Scott of Virginia said. “This is further evidence that the U.S. Senate is no longer a functioning legislative body.”
“When something as simple as ‘equal pay for equal work’ cannot break through Republican obstruction, it is obvious something needs to change,” he said.
The bill was opposed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which sought to have lawmakers block the legislation while it was still in the House.
“Factors such as experience, education, location, and shift work can and often do result in pay differentials between employees employed by the same business in similar positions. Current law recognizes that these are legitimate, non-discriminatory distinctions,” read the chamber’s March letter to Scott, chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, and GOP North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx, the committee’s ranking member.
“H.R. 7 would impose a new multi-factor test that includes a vague ‘business necessity’ test that would effectively eliminate the ability of an employer to make compensation decisions based on such factors.”
“This bill would also modify existing rules concerning collective actions, making it easier for plaintiffs’ attorneys to mount class action suits by reducing the criteria necessary for employees to join a class. While a potential boon to the trial bar, these changes are likely to result in more frivolous litigation rather than appropriate enforcement against actual gender-based pay discrimination,” the chamber wrote.
“This bill also would make several regulatory changes at the Labor Department related to equal employment opportunity requirements for federal contractors. Re-imposing the flawed Equal Opportunity Survey and requiring use of dubious statistical models for determining whether employers engage in systematic compensation discrimination would do nothing to combat discrimination and instead would waste both enforcement and employer resources,” the letter added.
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