It looks like a group of Democrat legislators are going to bring the #waronwomen fight to the North Dakota legislature this session. A trio of House bills – all with half-term Representaive and “Woman of the Year” Kylie Oversen of Grand Forks as prime sponsor – would attack alleged pay disparities between men and women.
(I mock Oversen’s “Woman of the Year” award because it was awarded by a thoroughly partisan organization – the North Dakota Women’s Network – for accomplishing not much of anything. Sort of like Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize. Given that there are a lot of deserving women in North Dakota – including in the state legislature – who have actually done something the award was a bit of a joke).
Why do I say alleged pay disparities? Because, despite the politicking around this issue, I’m not convinced that it is an issue. Nationally research indicates that in apples-to-apples comparisons – meaning contrasts between men and women with the same levels of education, experience, time-on-job, etc. – the gender wage gap pretty much disappears. In fact, if anything, women are doing better than men. As for here in North Dakota specifically, despite a boom in the male-dominated energy industry, wages for women in the state have actually been growing faster (up 22 percent since 2006) than men (up 17 percent).
I suspect these bills are solutions in search of problems. Unless the problem is the lack of gender-baiting bills before the 2015 legislature, in which case they’re exactly what’s needed.
HB1294 changes to the law which simply which adds discussing pay levels with other employees as an unlawful justification for terminating employment.
HB1257 opens the door for more lawsuits over wage discrimination (meaning that one is more about helping out the lawyers than women).
But it’s HB1293 that’s the big one. That bill would require businesses with more than 40 employees who sign a contract with the state for more than $500,000 to get an equal pay certificate from the ND Department of Labor.
There are a bunch of requirements listed in the law to get the certificate, but the biggest one is this:
Sounds reasonable, but in reality it opens up a whole universe of liability for businesses, especially in light of Oversen’s other bills expanding the grounds for wage discrimination lawsuits.
The problem is that things like “skill” and “effort” (not to mention attitude, etc.) are very subjective, as anyone who has ever felt unappreciated by their boss knows. What Oversen wants to do is open up a can of worms, in the name of phony and partisan sense of gender equity, that will increase the number of lawsuits filed against businesses signing contracts with the state.
Again, to solve a problem that doesn’t seem to exist outside of political talking points.
As a brother to four sisters, and a father to two daughters, I abhor the idea of gender discrimination. That said, I’d hate to think that any woman is getting raises not so much because they’re earned but because businesses are afraid of getting sued (or losing a state contract) based on some arbitrary and subjective notion of discrimination written into state law.
Expect Democrats to flog this – because #waronwomen – and for Republicans to kill it. And then we’ll know what at least one campaign talking point in the 2016 elections will be.