The passing of the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act raises some questions for me about discrimination. The obvious one is around gender and the specific requirements of a job. And the less obvious one is about statute of limitations which I’m not sure I understand in the first place. (And I always wanna say “statue” of limitations like it’s a big woman with a funky crown on her head.)
Read the specifics here http://www.nwlc.org/fairpay/ or on my beloved Wikipedia here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilly_Ledbetter_Fair_Pay_Act
I remember hearing from a friend of mine that while taking the local firefighter test, he found out that female recruits had a different set of standard requirements. For example, they had to lift a full 20 lbs less than their male counterparts, and their fat ratio could be higher. (Well he called it the “fat ratio” and I don’t know what the actual term was.)
I had said that I thought the “fat ratio” was fair enough because it is a scientific FACT that women carry more fat and it would be discrimination to not take that into consideration. Besides, I’ve seen plenty of chubby male firefighters in my day, haven’t you?
But the lifting and running requirements got me thinking. On one hand, my initial reaction was that I wouldn’t want a chick firefighter to have to lift me out of a burning building. But otoh, I thought well what IS the requirement any way and is it fair to say that the X number of pounds a woman can lift is still more than enough in an emergency? Maybe the requirement is still 150 where the male requirement is 170. either way, you should be ok in a pinch, plus you got all that adrenaline working for you.
The larger question that my friend and many of us still wrestle with is the elephant in the room: can a woman really do everything a man can do? Not to mention better?
There are cases like Ledbetter where it seems obvious at first blush. Same position, same level, same number of years, and she is making noticeably less. She got lower evaluations but upon further investigation there was no real cause for that. Her merit increases should have been on par with her counterparts; a percentage is a percentage is a percentage.
As a woman, of course I have this gut instinct that tells me I could do whatever i want, but I don’t want to do certain jobs and I leave the men to it. The point though is that if I take the job and I do the same task, I should be paid the same amount. Right?
And that’s where it gets tricky. Salary has always been this flimsy number, taking into account experience and skills and seniority and so forth. As a recruiter you think how high a number do I need to throw out there to keep this candidate interested and still make our budget? How much is this person really worth?
I know way too many people who pick up a paycheck for sitting at a desk and playing the seemingly endless Mafia Wars app on Myspace. They could tell you what they “really” do for a living and what it says in their job descriptions, but now ask them how much work they did today. Real honest work. About 15 minutes? Including printing up a TPS report cover? What really is work and how do you price it?
The fact of the matter is that many times bosses and potential bosses have all these factors floating around in their heads. And the reason for Acts such as the Ledbetter one is to prevent these bosses from considering factors that are biased and based on preconceived and misconceived notions. I mean, are jobs intrinsically gender-based and where did we come up with such generalizations? To me, it is actually sad we need to state these things in writing and pass into law, but such is the state of um things.
I’d like someone (maybe someone with a law degree) to explain the statute thing. I do understand in criminal cases when the collection of evidence to satisfy burden of proof is limited by the amount of time that has passed since the criminal act itself. Or at least I think I heard that on Law and Order SVU.
Several years ago, past the statute I’m sure, I did actually have a potential supervisor ask me if I planned on getting pregnant any time soon. I realized I could have probably pressed charges but then again, he still offered me the job. I didn’t take it obviously, because I most likely would have killed him with a stapler at some point and that dumb@#! was not worth prison time.
And apparently, there IS a statue …