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Public Statements

Far from Fair: The Paycheck Fairness Act

Op-Ed

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Far from Fair: The Paycheck Fairness Act

by U.S. Representative Barbara Cubin

Don't be fooled by the title of the Paycheck Fairness Act that the House of Representatives just before adjourning for August recess. This bill is anything but fair. I, as much as anyone, support our nation's anti-discrimination laws and equal pay for equal work. This bill, however, stacks the cards against American businesses and employers while it hands a royal flush to trial lawyers working to game the system. The Paycheck Fairness Act is one of the most flagrant examples of East Coast liberals telling employers that the government knows how to run their businesses better than they do.

To begin with, the so-called Paycheck Fairness Act is really a bonanza for trial lawyers. This bill will allow for unlimited compensatory and punitive damages, even when a disparity of pay was unintentional and in the cases where no intent of wrong doing exists. This means that an employee can sue for any disparity in pay even if the wage differentiation was for a legitimate reason.

Under the current law, employers are able to defend wage differentials that occur because of such nondiscriminatory factors as market rates and prior salary history. H.R. 1338, however, changes this and requires employers to prove that any pay disparity passes "job relatedness" and "business necessity" tests as determined by a jury. If the court decides that the employer does not pass the "job relatedness" or "business necessity" tests, then the employer pays and big time. The employer must not only compensate for the pay disparity, but also cover any additional, unlimited punitive damages. What this means is that the government, through the extension of the courts, thinks it knows how to run a business better than the businessmen themselves do. That logic simply does not make sense.

In addition to harming all businesses, this bill particularly threatens small businesses and the workers they employ. Any business with more than 15 employees would be subject to these new rules. Small businesses are just that, small. One single pay discrimination lawsuit with unlimited punitive damages could wipe out an entire small business. Bankruptcies of small businesses will certainly cause many employees to lose their jobs, which will not help unemployment rates.

Some liberals in Congress may think that government and further legislation provide the answer to any and every situation. I fully disagree and in most cases I agree with Ronald Reagan's statement that, "Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." This bill certainly proves this point by causing much harm to the business industry and its employees. H.R. 1338 imposes unfair and unreasonable regulations and makes it harder for the businesses to defend themselves in court. On the other hand, this bill rewards trial lawyers by making it easier to sue by creating more conditions under which suits are lucrative. By any definition of fair, this bill is certainly not fair.


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