Gail Collins is right to criticize John McCain for his opposition to the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (McCain's compassion tour, New York Times, April 26, 2008: A27).
In addition to the issue of fairness, there are two other compelling reasons for supporting the act. The first is economic, the second is legal.
On the economic front it is sad that as a former business executive, the President fails to recognize that fair and equitable pay is the way in which the commitment of employees to the organization is maintained. It is that commitment which ensures that people present innovative ideas to management in order to improve a firm's products and processes. It is these innovations in products and processes that drive our economy in the 21st century. The Republican and US Chamber of Commerce opposition to this Act is short-sighted and counterproductive to economic growth.
On the legal front, it is unfortunate that the Republicans and the Chamber do not recognize that failure to pass this act will result in what they fear most: a flurry of frivolous lawsuits. Absent this new legislation, it is very likely that a flood of litigation will occur. If a woman suspects discrimination, she had better file suit within 180 days of receiving her first paycheck. Many people will probably do just that.
In general, pay discrimination can only flourish in an organizational culture which fosters secrecy about compensation. Pay secrecy is an undesirable state of affairs in an organization, reducing employee motivation, yet it persists. It is therefore only right that an individual be allowed to sue for discrimination when he/she uncovers the fact that it has occurred.
The author has been a student of motivation in organizations for the past 40 years.
Sent to the New York Times