Tennessee Lawmakers Stop Excessive Pay Equality Act

Date: May 19, 2015

NFIB fought to stop this unnecessary regulation on independent business.

Tennessee avoided an extra burden
on independent business this year when the legislature voted down the Pay
Equality Act. NFIB led the charge against this excessive effort.

House Bill 903, sponsored by Rep.
John Ray Clemmons, aimed to provide another avenue through state courts to sue in
alleged gender discrimination cases.  

The Pay Equality Act failed in the House Consumer
& Human Resources Subcommittee, but NFIB/Tennessee State Director Jim Brown
expects some form of this bill to return next year.

“We’ve seen these bills several
times before, and I think proponents know they have a long way to go, but they’re
going to keep at it,” Brown says.

Indeed, in 1974, the legislature
enacted 50-2-202, which mimicked some of federal law
enacted in the 1960s, officially prohibiting gender wage discrimination in
Tennessee. Even so, the state has seen multiple versions of the legislation in
recent years.

NFIB opposed the Pay Equality
Act, arguing that it adds an unnecessary burden to employers.

“Of course we support equal pay
for equal work,” says Brown. “But the remedy available in federal court has
proven to be very effective. Why create another avenue when the current system
works?”

Proponents of the bill cited a
statistic that found women in Tennessee make 83.8 cents for every dollar a man
makes. In the bill’s hearing, Rep. Susan Lynn, chairman of the House Consumer
& Human Resources Subcommittee, contended these statistics don’t account
for personal choices women make.

Lynn reasoned women are more
likely to choose to interrupt their careers in order to care for their
children. She argued some women intentionally choose jobs with better benefits,
and are more likely to select jobs that require less travel so they can be
close to home for their children—even if meeting these requirements means
taking a job with a lower base pay.

Brown explains with all factors considered,
a more accurate number is women make 95 cents for every dollar,
citing a 2009 U.S. Bureau of Labor study.

Brown says gender discrimination
is already illegal due to the 1963 Equal Pay Act, Title VII of the 1964 Civil
Rights Act and the 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Act, which allows a claimant to start
the pay history review from the first paycheck, not the most recent.  

“If the federal process isn’t
working, that’s one thing, but that’s not the argument,” says Brown. “It’s
clear federal remedies work, are effective and should be used.”

Related Content: News | Labor | Tennessee

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