Let’s get something straight. When it comes to drafting laws, ambiguity is a prime directive inside this nation’s legislative halls. And since most voters assume that the spirit and the letter of our laws are synonymous—lawyers know that this is pure crap—legal obfuscation is an absolute imperative.
“Fair Pay” is not only a relative term, it’s illusory as well. But that’s a whole other topic for another posting. But even so, the Paycheck Fairness Act—if it ever actually becomes LAW—will accomplish nothing other than window dressing for mindless politicians.
The issue involves three completely divergent factors: discriminatory pay practices based on gender, confidentiality of salary for promotion/pay raise considerations, and managerial favoritism.
Congress can solve the first one absolutely—but it won’t happen. But even now, anyone—male or female—has a legal right to initiate a formal challenge to salary and wage differences based on gender. Nor is there any need for any open discussion of salaries/wages with other employees within the same organization.
The right extends to employees of both sectors of the economy: private and public. It takes a legitimate complaint to the EEOC to trigger a preliminary investigation. Specific identities do not become a factor unless the EEOC decides to issue a formal reprimand based on its follow-up investigations.
Gender bias in pay practices is no longer a major factor within public sector jobs in this country. But it still occurs with alarming frequency within the private sector and it needs to be OUTLAWED!
The second issue, confidentiality of salary, applies only to the private sector and generally involves non-exempt employees—but can be expanded to include ALL employees. The basis for this is purely fundamental; it’s almost impossible to administer a pay/promotional system based on specific job performance if everyone knows what everyone else is earning.
But in contrast, this kind of system is impossible to administer in the public sector, also for a very simple reason: when people are paid from the public till, we, the public, have a right to know how much we’re paying. Some states, via myriad newspapers, publish public sector salaries annually.
In the public sector, people are hired at PUBLISHED entry level salaries (or wages) plus benefits. In some cases, legally-sanctioned unions may set their own rules, but even so, everyone’s equal and knows what everyone else earns.
Each fiscal year, legislative bodies (state level for state employees, county level for county employees, and local level for local employees) decide whether or not to grant pay raises.
If they grant them, all non-unionized employees receive the same percent pay increase. But once employees reach 100% of pay grade, the only increase they’ll receive is an across-the-board cost of living increase IF the applicable legislative assembly grants one.
The bottom line is that as long as the public has the right to know what it’s paying public employees, it’s going to remain impossible to grant pay raises based on performance, even though the practice KILLS individual incentive and productivity. End of conversation.
The third issue, favoritism, has always been, is now, and will continue to be a reality of workplace life. It happens with regularity in both sectors: public and private.
And when it’s done with skill—comprised totally of circumstantial evidence—there isn’t a thing that anyone can do about it. But it has nothing to do with “paycheck fairness.”
In the public sector, where there is no such thing as direct managerial accountability, only patronage loyalty counts. Consequently, the system often operates like a well-designed septic tank; the big chunks always float to the top.
Public sector organizations are always dominated by political feasibility. As such, productive effectiveness and economic common sense are never seen as imperatives, only as relative prerogatives—and even then, only if they’re politically convenient. But they’re NEVER run like businesses simply because they’re NOT businesses!
Within this sector, favoritism is not merely blatant; it’s often inanely blatant. And it’s virtually impossible to eliminate because stupidity not only begets itself, it perpetuates itself.
But private sector businesses, unless they have a team of legislative sugar daddies, have to turn a profit or go bankrupt. And make no mistake about it; convenience is also an imperative in this sector. Only it has to coexist with its BIG brother: profitability.
So, in the private sector, executives practice favoritism, but they do it with flair and alacrity; always promoting their favorite sons (and increasingly so, their daughters) who have faithfully towed the company line all the while cultivating in-house senior “POLITICAL” alliances.
Finally, remember that the ‘Paycheck Fairness Act’ is just a BILL. If it gains enough traction to become LAW, it will not come close to the spirit in which it was introduced because it will have been overloaded with all sorts of generalized interpretive special interest EXEMPTIONS.
And the only thing that will have been accomplished is providing a horde of windbag politicians with a platform from which they can bellow on about what they’ve “accomplished.”