Policy Impact Series Surveys the Pay Equity Landscape

October 09, 2020

In the latest installment of the Association’s weekly Policy Impact series, members and staff explored the current pay equity legislative and regulatory landscape, and previewed possible changes resulting from the upcoming election.

A survey of existing and pending pay equity legislation:  The call provided an overview of both existing pay equity laws and regulations as well as the House-passed Paycheck Fairness Act, which could be one of the first items of business for a Democratic Congress.  Company commentary was provided by Future Workplace Policy Council Chair Johnna G. Torsone of Pitney Bowes, Inc., Dan Murphy, Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel, Labor and Employment and Labor Relations, Verizon Communications, Inc., and Dan Bird, Director, Executive Compensation, Boston Scientific Corporation.

Pay equity versus pay parity:  Senior Advisor Dan Yager noted that lawmakers tend to focus exclusively on "equal pay for equal work" pay discrimination in narrowing the pay gap.  Center On Executive Compensation President and CEO Ani Huang explained the distinction between pay equity and pay parity, indicating the key to achieving pay parity is increasing the representation of women and minorities in higher-paying positions.  Since most large employers are already conducting regular pay audits to ensure employees in similar jobs are paid equally, strengthening existing anti-discrimination pay laws is unlikely to improve pay parity.

Safe harbor for pay audits:  Senior Labor and Employment Counsel Roger King described protections some states, such as Massachusetts, have provided for an employer that undertakes “a good faith, reasonable self-evaluation of its pay practices.”  King indicated the Association would be exploring a similar approach at the federal level to provide those employers an affirmative defense against certain pay discrimination claims.

The November elections and policy impacts:  A large part of the discussion focused on how the outcome of the upcoming election could shape future pay equity legislation and regulation.  Vice President Biden has publicly supported the Paycheck Fairness Act, while his running mate, Senator Kamala Harris, championed “the most aggressive equal pay proposal in history” when she was campaigning for president.  Even if President Trump were to win reelection, pay equity legislation and/or regulation would remain in play.

The Policy Impact Series continues in the weeks ahead, with deep dives on expanded employer liability (October 14), health care (October 21), and executive compensation (October 28).

Click here for slides used on the pay equity call and here for an overview of what CHROs need to know.