President Obama has called for immediate passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, and on Sept. 28, the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee held a hearing at which proponents continued the push for its passage. Despite its appealing title, the Paycheck Fairness Act is anything but fair. Gender pay discrimination has been outlawed for almost 50 years with the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If passed, the legislation would eliminate common-sense defenses now available to employers in pay discrimination claims while bankrolling the well-funded trial bar. Although ostensibly aimed at narrowing the gender pay gap, the act ignores market realities and threatens to put well-intentioned employers out of business and eliminate countless jobs. Worse yet, there is simply no credible evidence that systemic workplace discrimination is taking place or that employers are to blame.
Several major, independent studies, including one in 2003 by the U.S. General Accounting Office, now the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), and a March 2010 European study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), show that the remaining wage gap persists largely because of societal, cultural and other unexplained factors — not employer bias. Indeed, the number of nonmeritorious sex discrimination cases that are filed against employers each year is astronomical. In 2009, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found “reasonable cause” in only 5% of the Equal Pay Act and Title VII sex discrimination charges filed with the agency.
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