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Intro: "On Thursday, with little fanfare, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker signed a bill repealing the state's 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act, which allowed victims of workplace discrimination to seek damages in state courts. In doing so, he demonstrated that our political battles over women's rights aren't just about sex and reproduction - they extend to every aspect of women's lives."

Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker speaks to an audience at a Waukesha County Republican dinner in Pewaukee, Wis. (photo: Steven Senne/AP)
Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker speaks to an audience at a Waukesha County Republican dinner in Pewaukee, Wis. (photo: Steven Senne/AP)

'Money Is More Important for Men,' Wis. Repeals Equal Pay Rights

By Michelle Goldberg, The Daily Beast

09 April 12


Governor Scott Walker signed a repeal of his state's workplace-discrimination law - the latest battleground over the issues that matter most to women.

n Thursday, with little fanfare, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker signed a bill repealing the state's 2009 Equal Pay Enforcement Act, which allowed victims of workplace discrimination to seek damages in state courts. In doing so, he demonstrated that our political battles over women's rights aren't just about sex and reproduction - they extend to every aspect of women's lives.

"This whole session has been anti-woman and anti-middle class, and this fits right in with that agenda," says Wisconsin state representative Christine Sinicki, a Democrat who co-authored the original legislation.

The Equal Pay law wasn't just about women - it also offered protection from discrimination based on race, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, and other factors. But it was enacted largely in response to a large gap between men and women's compensation, one that was worse than average in Wisconsin - in 2009 the state ranked 36th in the country in terms of workplace gender parity.

Wisconsin's law was similar to many others - indeed, almost every state in the country has anti-discrimination laws that augment federal legislation. "It's often easier, faster, and cheaper to pursue a claim of discrimination in state court than in federal court," says Linda Meric, national director of 9to5, an organization devoted to working-women's issues. "The law is different in each state, but Wisconsin was certainly in the mainstream in having a law that provided remedies for employees who experienced discrimination on the job."

To bring a suit under the law, a plaintiff first had to go through a state-level administrative process to prove discrimination. It was rigorous enough that in the two years the law was in effect, not a single equal-pay lawsuit was filed. Still, the law's supporters believe it has been effective in spurring businesses to pay women more fairly. Thus by 2010, the state had climbed to 24th in the national gender-parity rankings, with women making 78 percent as much as men, compared to 77 percent nationally. "Since the law was put into place, employers actually took notice and were very conscious of the fact that they had to follow this law or they were at risk of a lawsuit," Sinicki argues.

For the law's critics, though, even the threat of lawsuits put an intolerable burden on business. "If tomorrow you woke up and some policeman is at your door giving you a summons for something, the fact that you're innocent wouldn't make you happy, because you have to show you're innocent at some considerable time and expense," says Republican state senator Glenn Grothman, a major driver of the repeal.

Grothman says companies are being bombarded with false accusations of discrimination. "It's an underreported problem, but a huge number of discrimination claims are baseless," he says. "Most of them are filed by fired employees, and really today almost anybody is a protected class." As a result, he says, many companies are forced to pay fired employees to go away. He argues that the Wisconsin law, which allowed for damages of up to $300,000, the same amount as in federal law, raised the cost of doing business in the state to intolerable levels. "It just puts Wisconsin way out of whack with other states," he says. "I'm not sure there are any other states this bad off."

Actually, there are - according to data from 9to5, 33 other states have either no cap on damages or the same $300,000 cap as Wisconsin. Still, even if the law isn't an outlier, it's not surprising that Grothman would see it as unjust, because he believes that the whole idea of pay discrimination against women is fraudulent.

Whatever gaps exist, he insists, stem from women's decision to prioritize childrearing over their careers. "Take a hypothetical husband and wife who are both lawyers," he says. "But the husband is working 50 or 60 hours a week, going all out, making 200 grand a year. The woman takes time off, raises kids, is not go go go. Now they're 50 years old. The husband is making 200 grand a year, the woman is making 40 grand a year. It wasn't discrimination. There was a different sense of urgency in each person."

He continues, "What you've got to look at, and Ann Coulter has looked at this, is you have to break it down by married and unmarried. Once you break it down by married and unmarried, the differential disappears."

In fact, despite Coulter's well-known expertise in the field, this is incorrect. A 2007 study by the American Association of University Women found that college-educated women earn only 80 percent as much as similarly educated men a year after graduation. Part of that is attributable to differences in life choices and family circumstances, but not all. "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.

"The idea that pay discrimination is a myth is a myth in and of itself," says Fatima Goss Graves, vice president for education and employment at the National Women's Law Center. "Study after study has shown the exact opposite."

Grothman doesn't accept these studies. When I ran the numbers by him, he replied, "The American Association of University Women is a pretty liberal group." Nor, he argued, does its conclusion take into account other factors, like "goals in life. You could argue that money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday, may be a little more money-conscious. To attribute everything to a so-called bias in the workplace is just not true."

Whatever you think of this perspective, it will now have a major impact on the futures of Wisconsin women. "Scott Walker and the Wisconsin state legislature are rolling back the clock on women's rights, putting women's economic security in greater jeopardy at the exact moment that they should be assisting women to get ahead in this tough economy," says Meric.

As it happens, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is from Wisconsin. He's compared the notion of a war on women to a war on caterpillars. If he wants to know why some women have bought into this ostensibly preposterous idea, he might take a look at what's going on at home. your social media marketing partner


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+28 # Lolanne 2012-04-09 10:26
A pox on that sorry SOB Walker and all his buddies! They seem intent on doing as much damage as humanly possible to their state before they are kicked out of office. They should be prosecuted for crimes against the citizenry instead of allowed to continue passing these repressive laws that are damaging to so many. I suspect those who elected these jerks are sad and sorry they ever voted them in.

And yeah, it makes perfect sense that the RNC Chair is from Wisconsin. The repigs would naturally want a male, and one as sleazy, shady as they could find, to fill that position.
+6 # John Locke 2012-04-09 11:54
There is still the Federal Equal Pay act
Prohibiting Job Discrimination
I. The Federal Laws Prohibiting Job Discrimination?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII), which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin;
the Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA), which protects men and women who perform substantially equal work in the same establishment from sex-based wage discrimination;
the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older;
Title I and Title V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended (ADA), which prohibit employment discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities in the private sector, and in state and local governments;
Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which prohibit discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities who work in the federal government;
Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscriminati on Act of 2008 (GINA), which prohibits employment discrimination based on genetic information about an applicant, employee, or former employee; and
the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which, among other things, provides monetary damages in cases of intentional employment discrimination.

Continued Below
+4 # John Locke 2012-04-09 11:55
Continued from Above

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces all of these laws. EEOC also provides oversight and coordination of all federal equal employment opportunity regulations, practices, and policies.

So Walker has not accomplished much more then outrage! The Federal Protection is still in place!
+6 # LiberalRN 2012-04-09 12:51
Quoting John Locke:
Continued from AboveSo Walker has not accomplished much more then outrage! The Federal Protection is still in place!

I wish. But it's much more difficult (and costly) to sue in Federal court, plus all the state-vs-fed issues...
+2 # John Locke 2012-04-09 15:46
Actually I find it easier to go through the Federal System. These types of cases can be taken on by many attorneys' on a contingency fee basis, and generally will be through litigation within one year whereas in state courts it can take three years
+1 # KittatinyHawk 2012-04-09 18:46
Do not bring up too many times, or the supreme Court Clones will be undoing these laws
+1 # LeeBlack 2012-04-09 23:36
This is one of the reason I support a strong Federal System and weaker States rights.
+3 # Lolanne 2012-04-09 13:43
Quoting John Locke:
Continued from Above . . .
So Walker has not accomplished much more then outrage! The Federal Protection is still in place!

Thanks for those reminders of Federal laws that remain in place. One has to wonder why, with all those laws, states (at least some of them) still feel it is necessary to enact their own, similar laws. Maybe because the Federal Laws are not adequately enforced? Or is it more difficult for an individual to bring a suit alleging infractions of Federal law? I do not know the answers, wd be interested in knowing others' opinions.
+1 # John Locke 2012-04-09 15:49
So far, unless they are repealed by congress they are more effective in Federal Court. State courts generally frown on someone attacking for example; a school board which is notorious for age discrimination. I doubt these long standing laws will be repealed.
+15 # AMLLLLL 2012-04-09 10:56
This is all the more reason to VOTE. Even in presidential election years, the average is around 50% turnout. It should be our mission to get at least one voter who might otherwise stay home down to vote. Down-ticket is actually more critical this time.
+10 # minorcan 2012-04-09 10:59
Why would anyone change a law to limit freedom? Doesn't compute.
+2 # feloneouscat 2012-04-09 16:15
I would say, but the only words that come out I can't say at work.
+16 # BradFromSalem 2012-04-09 11:25
What a bunch of bull. These Righties are trying to not only bring women back into the 19th Century, they want to drag men with them too.

A man deserves more pay because he spends most of his conscious life at his job? Working 50-60 hours a week, every week, with only 2 weeks vacation is NOT a Family Values position. When is this man going to have time to know his children? Does the 50 - 60 hours include blackberry time? I doubt it.

These guys have no shame. Nothing they say or do makes any sense. A woman that works 40 hours a week should get the same pay as a man that works 40 hours a week at the same job, with the same experience. Enforcement is easy. Just make it illegal to hide how much people are being paid. When the court comes with a subpeona, turn over the pay records. What could be easier? Unless of course you want to hide something.
+12 # AndreM5 2012-04-09 11:34
Wisconsin is the poster example of why you MUST VOTE and bring everyone with you. Do not assume the R's can't win no matter how poorly they poll or how ridiculous the candidates.

They can only steal an election when the turnout is low and results are close. Overwhelming numbers are the antidote.

There is no way Walker should have a majority in the Wisc Legislature or Senate. This is WISCONSIN!
+11 # DPM 2012-04-09 11:39
Walker gets the headlines, but in the mean time, in Michigan, Snyder has been creating "principalities " and suspending voting rights, even in the legislature, by not counting Democratic votes. These people are, indeed, doing as much damage as possible, knowing that even if they are voted out next time, they will be back, later, to continue the job they started 30 years ago. It's called, "destruction by inches".
+12 # Scott479 2012-04-09 11:50
Wake up Gals, get in line to vote or get in line for the latest in Burka styles (black only) courtesy of the republican/bibl e thumping freak show.
+7 # panhead49 2012-04-09 12:13
I'm starting to think there is some type of genetic problem that leads to the Republican mindset because all rational people know 'when momma ain't happy, NO body happy' and Momma ain't happy when she is the main bread winner and that loaf for her is only half a loaf. Keep in mind that the Rosie the Riveter ladies - because WE CAN DO IT and boy howdy we damn well better do it this time around. Only thing left to take from us is our vote (and our shoes - remember, the rightwingnuts want us barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen). WTH - is Mad Men mandatory viewing for R's??
+3 # dick 2012-04-09 12:30
There may be something about State Courts per se that this is aimed at, along with raising out of state $$ for the recall defense. Remember, Sen.Obama voted for Bush's corporate sponsored so called "Tort Reform," & I think that was aimed at state courts. Hard for 0.01% to CONTROL all those state courts. Send $$ to Wisc, Mass, Neb, RSN. Walker sure is helping Dems nationally.
+11 # carp 2012-04-09 12:56
so now women are caterpillars? it was bad enough when women are compared to livestock, pigs and cows or even sluts and prostitutes but caterpillars? Let's face it women are being denigrated by the GOP to the point they don't even consider us human beings.
+3 # Uppity Woman 2012-04-09 17:42
Quoting carp:
Let's face it women are being denigrated by the GOP to the point they don't even consider us human beings.

or mammals...
0 # KittatinyHawk 2012-04-09 18:59
Clones have no sense of purpose, no ability to comprehend what a Human or Mammal is.

Women are great at whatever we do.

I hope the "females in Congress, Senate, Federal or State all felt the slap in their faces" They deserve that slap by allowing their associates to Vote like they do.

I would rather be a Caterpillar than a slime ball.
0 # Regina 2012-04-10 23:10
There aren't enough women yet in Congress, etc. The few we have can't outvote the good ol' boys.
+4 # feloneouscat 2012-04-09 16:21
"Whatever gaps exist, he insists, stem from women's decision to prioritize childrearing over their careers."

Wait - don't we have the right to decide over what we do with our lives? Isn't that the point of freedom? And it isn't the case of prioritizing childrearing over careers (well, I guess it is if you are lawyer), the REST of American NEEDS that double-income. Especially with children.

So now Republicans want everyone to have a lower standard of living, no birth control, and what, maybe no jobs?

How is this BETTER?!?!
+2 # Gengis 2012-04-09 17:15
This man is an unmitigated egocentric male shauvanist or else too stupid to even be shovelling doo doo at a feedlot. What he said was that men are more deserving of higher pay than women because producing and raising the next generation has no value. Imbicile or what? How do we elect such ignoramuses?
+3 # Gengis 2012-04-09 17:19
In retaliation women and intelligent men should lobby for equal pay to his salary for stay at home moms. Grrrr... I held my tongue on what else I wanted to say ...
+3 # Gengis 2012-04-09 18:02
Umm .. were these red necks in WI and Mich spawned in the south? I mean we expect less of them in the north don't we? I guess spawn can be distorted by pollution like Republicanism anywhere. Maybe its time to get ALL the people out and vote to secede and join Canada. Now wouldn't that wake a lot of people up and take notice. They even have jobs up there.
0 # KittatinyHawk 2012-04-09 19:02
These were cloned really there is not other reasoning how we have so many bad politicians, bad Faith Leaders.

Time we vote them all out. I hope the women who vote for these laws, choke on them.
0 # Regina 2012-04-10 23:11
And intelligent health care. But it's so doggone cold!
0 # 2012-04-10 06:14
Let's only hope that the recall will get this Koch puppet out of office, where he never should have been in the first place. Then, try recalling some of these atrocious laws he passed.
+1 # Jane Gilgun 2012-04-10 09:11
Who would have thought that equal pay for equal work was an affront to Walker and those for whom he carries water. I am thinking of moving to another country. I cannot live in a fascist country.

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