Transcript: Q&A w/ Sen. Al Franken on the Paycheck Fairness Act

Partial transcript of Q&A w/ Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) on the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing was held on April 1, 2014:

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota):
…I think it’s just fundamental that people should be paid the same for the same work, and that’s based on race, religion, national origin, and gender. I just think that’s – I think that’s a fundamental right. And so I’m a co-sponsor – original co-sponsor of this act.

…The Ranking Member, who I respect enormously, talked about this undermining flexibility in the workforce or in the workplace. That didn’t – I don’t understand that…But it seems to me that you can – dads want to go to soccer games, moms want to go to soccer games; dads want to be able to have their kid in a daycare at the school…

Professor Eisenberg, would this affect flexibility in the workplaces? This law?

Professor Deborah Thompson Eisenberg, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law:
Based on my reading, I don’t think that it would. Remember the catch-all factor other than sex is still there but it has to be related to the job and the business. So that leaves the field wide open in my opinion that employers can still base compensation and give flexibility in their workforce in a way that matters most for their particular business.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota):
…Ms. Olson, in your testimony, you state that “if enacted, the act would amend the EPA significantly in substantive and procedural ways all upon a fundamental yet unsubstantiated premise, namely that throughout the United States all unexplained wage disparities existing between men and women are necessarily the result of intentional discrimination by employers.”

So basically what you’re saying that the fundamental premise of this is that all unexplained wage disparities are necessarily the result of intentional discrimination by employers – that that’s the premise of this. Could you expand on that a little?

Camille Olson, Partner at Seyfarth Shaw:
Yes. There’s been a lot of discussion by proponents of this bill that there is a significant wage gap. At footnote 5 in my testimony, I include a discussion of various economists. I’m not an economist. I’m here as a lawyer today. But many economists that describe when you take into account personal choices and a number of different considerations that are all detailed in the footnote, many economists, many government studies show that the wage gap decreases to between somewhere about 4.9% to somewhere up to 7.9% – some studies say 12%. It depends. There are a lot of studies. Some of them track the same person; some of them don’t; some look at median wages without taking a look at – let me just give you one example: lawyers. Somebody who graduates from law school 5 years out in that category isn’t going to make the same amount as somebody else. The big factor is going to be – do I work for a private law firm, do I work for a public interest group, do I work in a public setting in terms of a public governmental institution, do I work inside a company? But none of those factors are being considered.

The point of my testimony that I submitted that you’ve referenced is that to the extent there’s been a wage gap, there’s been no evidence deduced that that wage gap is the result of employer discrimination.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota):
But there still exists a gap even when you control for every other factor. But here’s the thing – I don’t think when I read Professor Eisenberg’s testimony, it seems quite at odds with what I read from your testimony. Did you read Professor Eisenberg’s testimony?

Camille Olson, Partner at Seyfarth Shaw:
I did.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota):
So were you struck by what I was struck by?

Camille Olson, Partner at Seyfarth Shaw:
I was struck by it, but –

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota):
…Professor Eisenberg, in your testimony you say that it is your firm belief that “most employers try to comply with the law and do not set out to intentionally discriminate against women.” That seems to be very at odds with Ms. Olson. Can you explain – could you comment on her comment and explain the difference in viewpoints?

Professor Deborah Thompson Eisenberg, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law:
Right. I think most employers do try to do the right thing but there’s no question that there are some outdated attitudes in some workplaces. And one need only to hear the stories here today to show that, and many other women have come before this committee to share that.

Just to give you an example: Managers of Wal-Mart told women that men would always make more because God made Adam first. So right, women would always be second to men. And one manager said, “Bring in your household budgets so I can see if you deserve to be paid as much as men.” So there’s this real bias in some workplaces that –

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota):
That almost makes Ms. Olson’s point. I mean, that sounds pretty intentional.

Professor Deborah Thompson Eisenberg, University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law:
Yeah, and so the second part is sort of – so there is still intentional discrimination is the point. But there’s also unconscious biases especially against working mothers that seep into the wage setting process. So some of those stereotypes are real problems as well.

###

One Comment on “Transcript: Q&A w/ Sen. Al Franken on the Paycheck Fairness Act

  1. Pingback: Election 2014: Minnesota Sen. Al Franken's voting records & positions on issues  | What The Folly?!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.