Monday, January 19, 2009

Equal Pay for Equal Work 

Yesterday's feminists are at it again - the Equal Pay Act of 1963 is being revived with the old claim that women still make roughly 78 cents to a male colleague's dollar, according to this "Intelligence Report" in the January 18, 2009 issue of Parade Magazine. There are two problems with this meme:

1 - Maternity leave: The report sort of addresses the time off for raising kids, which when factored into pay for women, negates the differences. The phrase the article uses is "A log of 'maternal profiling' goes on." Well, when you take time from work to raise kids, you lose those years of income, period. It's a choice. If you want to go back to work, you can and you won't lose time. (I chose to return to work after a six week maternity leave - for me, it was the right thing to do. Two years later, I was raising my son myself and did for another 14 years.)

2 - The idea that businesses intentionally treat women unfairly. The anti-business Democrats want the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to override the Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear. In this case, the Court ruled that women must sue within 180 days of the start of pay discrimination, not years later. While I agree that 180 days might be too short a time limit, removing all time limits is simply beyond the pale.

Ignored in all the hyperbole is the fact that individual preferences are key to the wage gap. This quote from this Washington Post article drives home the point:
Surveys have shown for years that women tend to place a higher priority on flexibility and other personal fulfillment than do men, who focus more on pay. Women tend to avoid jobs that require travel or relocation, and they take more time off and spend fewer hours in the office than men do. Men disproportionately take on the dirties, most dangerous and depressing jobs.
While the mantra of "equal pay" sounds good, it must be tied to "equal work" and performance.
And will this law support men getting equal pay in areas where women now out earn men? (Some 30 professions including engineering management, speech-language pathology, and radiation therapy)

By allowing employees to sue anytime after they "feel" they've been discriminated against, in other words remove the statute of limitations, and placing the burden of proof on the employer, the result will be fewer jobs. There simply is no way, other than the market to value jobs and there is no way an employer can be held accountable for something that may have happened 10, 20 or even 30 years ago.

The US House passed the Lilly Act - if it becomes law, it is one more nail in the coffin of free markets.

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