WI Gov Scott Walker Repeals Equal Pay Act
-written April 7
On Thursday, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, facing a re-call election set for this summer, signed a bill passed down party lines by Republicans to repeal the 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act. Yes- he decided to make it harder for women being paid an unequal amount to press charges against their employers. Apparently he and the Republicans in the state legislature believe that women don’t deserve to be paid as much as men. The repeal, supported by several major business associations, such as Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and the Wisconsin Restaurant association, reverses an employee’s ability to “plead their cases in the less costly, more accessible state court system,” and instead forces them to go before a federal court.
Reading about this, I asked myself: “Don’t we have federal legislation protecting an employee’s right to equal pay? How does this law comply with the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act?” What I learned was that the Ledbetter Act deals with revising the statute of limitations on when an employee can sue for unequal pay; it doesn’t deal with the process of how they do that. What it does is say that you can sue for unequal pay within 180 of your most recent paycheck, extending the previous limitation of 180 days from your first discriminatory paycheck.
Glenn Grothman, a Wisconsin state senator and “major driver of the repeal,” believes that “a huge number of the discrimination claims are baseless,” even though the 2009 law offered such confident protection to employees that zero lawsuits were filed against employers during the two years the law was in effect. Faced with the realities of the wage gap, though- which in Wisconsin is 78:100- Grothman explains the discrepancy as a difference in priorities and a different sense of urgency between men and women; not as discrimination.
During a recent interview, he referred to work done by Ann Coulter, which he claimed showed that the wage gap only effects married women. Even knowing this isn’t true, it’s problematic because it supports the assumption that married women, who are presumed to have children, obviously have better things to worry about than finances. This theory, however, was debunked by a 2007 study by the American Association of University Women.
“After accounting for college major, occupation, industry, sector, hours worked, workplace flexibility, experience, educational attainment, enrollment status, GPA, institution selectivity, age, race/ethnicity, region, marital status, and number of children, a 5 percent difference in the earnings of male and female college graduates one year after graduation was still unexplained,” it said. After 10 years in the workforce, there’s an unexplained 12 percent gap.
When asked for his response to such studies, Grothman dismissed the American Association of University Women as “a pretty liberal group,” and claimed that they overlooked things like “goals in life,” saying, “You could argue that money is more important for men.”