The Paycheck Fairness Act Fails (Again)


Well, that’s that.

The Paycheck Fairness Act, which would have would required that employers explain pay disparities between men and women, so that said staffers would know whether the differences are sex-based or not, failed 52-47 in the Senate, according to Politico. The proposed law — which would have prohibited employers “from retaliating against employees who discuss or disclose salary information with their co-workers” needed 60 votes to advance to debate.

But is anyone that surprised?

Last week, we noted that some congressional and critical circumstances had already questioned the bill’s viability.

For example, a Paycheck Fairness Act got pitched in 2010, but failed 58-41. There were also a lot of statistical snags, with one polemic point being data suggesting that women make .77 on every dollar men do.

Some very vocal opponents of the act said that the numbers are not true when adjusted for education level and that any pay disparities come down to women’s lifestyle “choices.”

There were also business-backed concerns echoed by one Forbes writer that:

“employers must have one pay for a job, not only at the entry level, but throughout the organization. For example, what if a year after Fair Pay Shipping Co. hires John and Sally, John comes in and asks for a raise, but Sally does not. Under the existing law, Fair Pay Shipping is probably OK giving John a raise and not Sally. Not so if the Paycheck Fairness Act passes.

Therefore, companies will have far less flexibility in addressing different salary histories for new hires, different salary demands from existing employees, the size of pay raises for people promoted into new roles, and so on. The law would make these changes without real evidence that these steps will eliminate pay disparities between men and women or any thought on the impact of restricting a company’s ability to respond to the different needs and demands of its employees.”

Here’s our prediction for the aftermath of the Act’s failure.

We’re going to go with what the Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent suggested a few weeks back. He called that the Act would not succeed and that this will probably be used by Dems as a major campaign talking point against their Republican opponents.

The three examples in what he called the “next big battle in the war over women” include Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri), who reportedly planned on an “aggressive push” to prompt her rivals to explain their opposition to paycheck fairness. Elizabeth Warren also intended on highlighting Scott Brown’s vote against the act in 2010 as “proof that he doesn’t really have the middle class’s interests at heart,” a Massachusetts Democratic Party official had told Sargent.

Indeed, it’s already clear that equal pay discussions will get tied to pols’ attitude toward the middle class. President Barack Obama said post-vote: “It is incredibly disappointing that in this make-or-break moment for the middle class, Senate Republicans put partisan politics ahead of American women and their families.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid voted ‘no’ on the bill which, as Politico notes, is “a procedural move that allows him to bring up the legislation again.”