This week the Senate is considering the Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to expand “remedies” to sex-based wage discrimination.
In other words, the legislation would allow women to sue for unlimited compensatory and punitive damages, and it would promote class-action lawsuits by requiring workers to opt out, rather than to opt in. This would result in expanded legal liability for employers, smaller paychecks and less fairness for women and men.
Like many ideas from the Left, this legislation is a solution in search of a problem. It would certainly be wrong to suggest that workplace discrimination is entirely extinct, but the PFA presumes the opposite – that men’s earnings outperform women’s solely because of discrimination and that more lawsuits are the fix. Reality is more complex.
If a woman is truly the victim of wage discrimination, she already has the ability to sue. Sex-based wage discrimination has been illegal since the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Proponents of the PFA point out that, despite these longstanding legal protections, women’s earnings continue to lag behind men’s. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average full-time woman’s wages are 81 percent of the average man’s.