Legislative Issues related to Human Resources in the works for 2009

Hello all – I am seeking advice and assistance in summarizing current legislation – and quick votes too!
I am a legislative chair for the Southern NM SHRM affiliated chapter here in New Mexico. I have been asked by the chapter president to provide an update to the members at our upcoming February meeting.
How would you summarize the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act?
The Free Choice Act?
Paycheck Fairness Act?
And what is your vote on whether these will be voted into law?

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Deborah Kemp, SPHR

Vicki –

Well, according to this very straightforward news report , it’s going to be signed Thursday. I would summarize the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as “expanding the time within which an employee can file a charge based on pay discrimination.” Pay inequities aren’t always uncovered right away — it could take years (as in Lilly Ledbetter’s case) for an employee to discover she/he has been paid less than a similarly situated co-worker.

Possible scenario based on my interpretation: Deborah and Fabio are both secretaries with the same responsibilities, duties and authority at ABC Corporation. After a couple of years of working side by side, both earning identical scores on their respective performance reviews, Fabio resigns to move relocate to his hometown so he’s able to care for his mother. After his resignation, Deborah has to gather some information from Fabio’s files for her boss and realizes Fabio forgot to take with him a file where he kept his pay stubs. Being a naturally inquisitive person, Deborah looks at each pay stub and discovers every year she and Fabio worked in the same job, with equal job duties and responsibilities, Fabio was paid an annual salary that was 10K more than Deborah was paid.

Before the Ledbetter FP Act, Deborah would have not been able to file a charge of discrimination because it’s long past the 180-day timeframe within which to file a charge. Under the Act, Deborah can file a charge even though the discrimination occurred more than 180 days ago. Since research indicates women are paid about 78 cents for every dollar a man makes, the Act is expected to benefit women.

Those who voted against this (McCain included) argue that an onslaught of litigation will occur because the time to file has been expanded. They further argue the survival of corporations is severely threatened due to the anticipated and costly litigation.

This merely revises (and, to some extent restates) a portion of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The fact that pay discrimination is unlawful was, therefore, promulgated 44 years ago, employers should have paid attention then. If employers continued to engage in discriminatory practices after passage of the Civil Rights Act, then they deserve the consequences. If an employer argues they didn’t know, or aren’t aware, about the Civil Rights Act, that’s just a flimsy excuse. There are too many ways to obtain information in today’s time.

Unfortunately, our economy has robbed employees of their job security. When you don’t know if you’re going to have a job next week, an employee might be afraid to file a charge that could become the proverbial straw that leads to job elimination, discharge, termination or whatever other word you use to describe unexpected and sudden unemployment. An employer who fires the employee who files a charge is engaging in yet another discriminatory practice … retaliation. But if you engage in one discriminatory act, what’s to stop you from engaging in any other discriminatory act?

I have some very strong opinions about the EFCA that I’ll try to write about tomorrow; however, I mentioned on the HR discussion forum, the Solis confirmation stall may actually benefit employers … for the time being. The EFCA is sure to be Solis’ first order of business and the longer her confirmation is stalled, the longer employers have to increase their knowledge about the EFCA. It seems a lot of people were waiting on the election results to become familiar with this legislation. If the EFCA enables employees/unions to organize with fewer restrictions, then too should it enable decertification with fewer restrictions.

Okay … I’m done typing for now, I’ll share more later. Hope this helps in some way.

Vicki Lusk, SPHR

Thank you Deborah. I am also very strong opionated abotu EFCA. We currently work with three union contracts at our agency and I feel very strongly that taking a person’s right for a secret vote away is unconstitutional! It took women up until 1920 to achieve this right!!