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Public Statements

Paycheck Fairness Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC

PAYCHECK FAIRNESS ACT -- (House of Representatives - January 09, 2009)


Mr. ANDREWS. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of this legislation, and I would like to address several of the arguments that we have heard against it, first, that this is some bonanza for trial lawyers.

What this is is an opportunity for women who have been discriminated against to get a lawyer. If you work as a sales clerk or in a factory, you can't afford to pay a lawyer the hourly fee that he or she needs to represent you. The only way you are going to get represented is through a contingent fee arrangement where a lawyer would recover, would get to keep part of what you recover as part of the deal.

Now, the problem with the Equal Pay Act is its remedies are limited so much to just twice what your salary is that the damages are never high enough to justify legal representation. This is about getting lawyers for people who have a valid claim who cannot afford the thousands of dollars that it would be.

Second, there was a representation made that defenses are stripped from employers. That's not accurate. What is accurate is that if an employer alleges that some reason other than gender was the reason that he paid the woman less than the man, it has to be a legitimate reason, like level of education or experience. It has to be a legitimate reason. The present law doesn't require that legitimacy.

Finally, the statement was made that an employer cannot discharge an employee for talking about pay scales publicly, that's not accurate. What the law does is to say that it protects employees that are custodians and guardians of pay records. But it certainly doesn't restrict in any way an employer's right to enforce a legitimate and realistic company policy.

This is a good bill. It's an excellent proposal that will help lift the economic status of women who work very hard, every day, in some cases 7 days a week, and deserve it.

I would urge a ``yes'' vote.


Mr. ANDREWS. If the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil suit against one of the people accused in the Wall Street wrongdoing, and there was a proposal on this floor that said the SEC can spend as much money as it wants to on its side of the case, but the Wall Street defendants accused of the wrongdoing are capped on how much they can spend on their legal defenses, I think the Members in the minority would say that's unfair. It is. So is this.

To interfere in how much lawyers are paid is a matter the judges should take a look at under this law. It's not something this Congress should interfere with. And it frankly, I believe, is a diversionary tactic to take us away from the real purpose of this law, and that's a woman that is selling real estate or teaching school or sweeping floors should make, penny for penny, dollar for dollar, everything a man makes to do the same job. That is the issue before the House.

Let's defeat this diversionary amendment. Let's pass the underlying bill and bring long-awaited justice to American women.


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