Another Gender Pay Equality Bill Rejected by Senate GOP

By William Peacock, Esq. on September 19, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Is this deja vu, or deja deja deja vu?

Back in April, Senate Republicans rejected the Paycheck Fairness Act of 2014. At the time, The Washington Post noted that it was the third attempt in recent years to pass the wage equality legislation. But hey, maybe the fourth time would be a charm?

No. Not at all. This time, according to The Hill, Wednesday's vote was 52-40, short of the 60-vote procedural hurdle needed to advance. The vote seems like more of a political move than an actual attempt to pass legislation -- it's not like a handful of senators swapped party affiliation since the 53-44 vote in the spring, after all. But more importantly, for businesses, this should cause more than a few GCs to utter a sigh of relief.

Playing Politics?

Was this a legitimate attempt to pass legislation? According to Politico, Democrats acknowledge that the vote will help during campaign season, but insist that they were actually trying to pass the law.

"Democrats offered Republicans a chance to right their wrong in blocking pay equity earlier this year but rather than reversing course, Republicans doubled down," Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) stated. "Republicans have once again told women across the country that they don't deserve a fair shot at earning equal pay for equal work."

Meantime, Republicans criticized Democrats for wasting time on "message votes."

"Here we have an international crisis, with the defense authorization bill out there, and we refuse to take it up," Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) said. "We continue to take up issues that he thinks may help them in November. And we've got the world in turmoil."

To be fair, Politco points out that the GOP wasn't exactly rushing to address pending legislation either. During the last vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act, GOP senators didn't even call for debate, unanimously voting it down. This time, 19 Republicans opened debate, largely to run out the clock until the midterm elections break so that other issues, like raising the minimum wage and countering the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision, could be re-introduced.

In other words, politics, double-talk, and message votes -- Congress in a nutshell.

Businesses Be Like: Whew!

Politics and messages aside, why did the GOP and the Chamber of Commerce reject the bill so soundly? And why might more than a few GCs be relieved right now?

According to The Hill, Republicans called the bill a "giveaway" to trial lawyers, since it would remove caps on punitive damages against businesses found guilty of discrimination. And the Chamber of Commerce opposed the bill because it would "erode employer defenses for legitimate pay disparities."

In other words, more litigation against companies, with fewer defenses. Of course, your company treats women equally in terms of pay, so the law shouldn't affect you. But then again, not all lawsuits have merit, and even meritless suits cost money to defend against.

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