House GOP takes different path on “pay equity”

On February 16, the Iowa Senate passed a "pay equity" bill.  All the Democrats in the senate voted for it; all 18 Republicans in the senate voted against it.  Republican women led the debate against the bill, arguing if the bill becomes law, attorneys will start filing frivolous lawsuits against businesses.

"Lawsuits just filed willy nilly could have a tremendous effect on the businesses that operate in your small towns," said Senator Pat Ward, a Republican from West Des Moines. "Any Main Street busiess with four or more employees could be affected."

Senator Kim Reynolds, a Republican from Osceola, also worried about "frivolous lawsuits" from women using the new law to charge they're underpaid, when current law already allows them to charge they're being discriminated against on the job. "And it seems to me that we already have existing laws on the books that would enable people to move forward with this," Reynolds said. "And that, really, disparity in pay is an open door to taking this further than we need to."

But when the pay equity bill came up for debate in the Iowa House, that argument about frivolous lawsuits was not raised.  And only one Republican woman stood up to raise questions about the bill. 

If Iowa businesses are paying women less than men who're working at the same kind of job, Republican Representative Jodi Tymeson of Winterset suggested there may be valid reasons for that pay disparity. "We don't know that's wage discrimination," Tymeson said. "…There could be a lot of things that factor into that."

Most Republicans in the House voted for the bill today; it passed on an 87-6 vote.  Yes, only six no votes. 

Representative Doug Struyk of Council Bluffs was among the Republicans who voted for it. "As a husband and a father and a brother and a son, also the son of a Vietnam veteran, anytime you're dealing with discrimination, it doesn't matter if we're talking about 10,000 individuals; 100,000 individuals — one individual is too many," Struyk said.

But Struyk's leader wasn't keen on the bill.

The top Republican in the Iowa House argued requiring "pay equity" in the workplace will make it more difficult for Iowa businesses to make money in the current economic climate. House G.O.P. Leader Kraig Paulsen of Hiawatha said the bill does nothing to get the 80,000 unemployed Iowans back to work. "I just want to make sure people understand what's going on here," Paulsen said.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.