Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, signed into law an equal pay bill on Wednesday that would allow anyone who merely thinks they are being paid less due to their gender to sue their employer.
The bill, deceptively titled the “Equal Pay For Equal Work Act,” starts with the assumption that differences between what the average man and average woman earn in a year is due to pay discrimination between two people doing the exact same job. This misconception was spread by Colorado House Democrats in a press release praising the bill:
“Colorado women are paid 86 cents for every dollar paid to men for doing the same job and African-American women earn 63 cents for every dollar paid to men for doing the same job. The law, SB19-085, provides an avenue by which Coloradans can, through mediation via the Colorado Department of Labor & Employment and through the court system, seek relief if they have been discriminated against in their compensation based on their sex. The law puts proactive measures to reduce the gender pay gap and prohibits employers from discriminating against workers based on sex.”
The numbers cited in the press release do not show a gap between men and women “doing the same job.” The gender “wage” gap itself is deceptive. It is more accurately a gender earnings gap that is caused by men and women making different choices in their career and family. Men dominate high-paying fields while women dominate low-paying fields and also tend to leave their careers to raise children. When these factors and more are taken into consideration, the “wage” gap nearly disappears, and what remains can’t be conclusively linked to discrimination.
That’s not to say discrimination never happens, but it is not a widespread phenomenon like the Left claims.
The Colorado bill feeds on this myth and, in an effort to help women, may end up hurting them in the long run.
Business groups opposed the bill, saying it would lead to frivolous lawsuits that could cause small businesses to shutter their doors.
“Small businesses are acutely more sensitive to – and more victimized by – frivolous lawsuits than bigger businesses, many of which have legal counsel on their payrolls,” NFIB-Colorado said in a statement released prior to Polis signing the bill. “Sometimes, it just makes more economic sense to shutter the shop than keep paying exorbitant attorney costs – even though employers might be in the right.”
The Center Square reported that the Colorado law “makes exceptions for pay based on merit, seniority or commission. It also prohibits employers from asking about salary history, and requires they post salary ranges for job openings.”
This means that employees will claim discrimination, employers will claim merit or seniority, and the case will get tied up in court.
Let’s not forget that when Google ran an internal investigation into how it paid its employees, the company found that, more often, men were paid less than women for doing the same job. Bills like the one in Colorado are designed with the belief that women will be the victims, but what happens when it turns out men are being paid less?