The Corner

A ‘Comparable Worth’ Regulation?

The Obama administration’s Department of Labor recently proposed new regulations that are supposed to update the longstanding rules against sex discrimination by federal contractors. Now, for decades the Left has supported the notion of “comparable worth” in this area — that is, requiring equal pay not only for men and women performing the same job but also for different jobs that some bureaucrat believes to have comparable worth even if the market does not agree. For example, kindergarten teachers should get paid the same as truck drivers, because the jobs are equally worthwhile and so it would be sex discrimination to pay the former (mostly women) less than the latter (mostly men).

So, bearing that in mind, is this proposed regulation an attempt to get the nose of the comparable-worth camel into the tent? Some of the language has been used earlier by the Obama administration but not all of it, to my knowledge, and never in an actual regulation.

§ 60-20.4 Discriminatory compensation.

Compensation may not be based on sex. Contractors may not engage in any employment practice that denies equal wages, benefits, or any other forms of compensation, or equal access to earnings opportunities, on the basis of sex, on either an individual or systemic basis, including but not limited to the following:

(a) Contractors may not pay different compensation to similarly situated employees on the basis of sex. For purposes of evaluating compensation differences, the determination of similarly situated employees is case specific. Relevant factors in determining similarity may include tasks performed, skills, effort, levels of responsibility, working conditions, job difficulty, minimum qualifications, and other objective factors. In some cases, employees are similarly situated where they are comparable on some of these factors, even if they are not similar on others. . . .

(d) Contractors may not implement compensation practices, including performance review systems, that have an adverse impact on the basis of sex and are not shown to be job related and consistent with business necessity.

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