The Paycheck Fairness Act did not reaffirm the Bennett Amendment.
Instead, the Paycheck Fairness Act would have given the employee filing a claim of wage discrimination the authorization to seek unlimited punitive damages in addition to back pay. That provision may have given underpaid women a chance to collect fair pay but it also would have been a boon to trial lawyers who would be able to seek unlimited amounts of money in damages. Trial lawyers also would have benefited from Section 3(a) of the bill, which presumes the accused company is guilty and requires the company to prove its innocence under three narrow provisions. And, as noted in Section 10(a) of the bill, the Paycheck Fairness Act would have cost taxpayers $15 million for government agencies like the EEOC to enforce when we're already facing a federal debt over $17 trillion. By comparison, Sen. Fischer's amendment would have cost a mere $2.5 million.
The Paycheck Fairness Act included other disconcerting provisions such as the fallacy in Section 2. It claims that the gender pay disparity exists and can "only be due to continued intentional discrimination or the lingering effects of past discrimination." It also included an open invitation to the EEOC to issue new regulations in order to collect payment information from American employers, "including the imposition of burdens on employers."
Supporters of the Paycheck Fairness Act claim this bill was introduced to help women. A closer look at it — and at government statistics that depict the workforce's actual demographics and work-hour patterns — show that the people who would have benefited most from this bill are trial lawyers and government bureaucrats. Sen. Mikulski mocked that idea in her "volcanic" speech on the Senate floor in support of the Paycheck Fairness Act. But it's clear that if the Paycheck Fairness Act had passed, the real losers would have been businesses, already burdened with overregulation. The number of new regulations businesses must contend with has increased to more than 800 per year in recent years and as the Small Business Association has found, small businesses are already more burdened by government regulation than bigger businesses.
On issues of equal pay, the following must be clear: Republicans absolutely support equal pay for equal work. Republicans support women in however they choose to spend their time, whether working or caring for children or both. Most important, Republicans support the Equal Pay Act and amendments like Sen. Fischer's that strengthen it, not bills like the Paycheck Fairness Act that don't substantively help women.
Kathy Brugger is the president of the National Federation of Republican Women and continues to be a longtime Republican activist. Previously, Brugger served as a president of the California Federation of Republican Women. She serves on the California Republican Party Executive Committee and Central Committee. For more than 30 years, Brugger has also served as an elected school board member. She and her husband run their own business.
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