HR Is Caught in a Whirlwind of Political Wrangling

by Michael Haberman on January 7, 2009 · 0 comments


The Democrat controlled 111th House of Representatives flexed it’s muscles today. Nancy Pelosi et. al. changed the rules on how bills are dealt with in the House. As stated in this Washington Post article House rule changes squander good willThe spirit of bipartisan cooperation didn’t survive the first day of the 111th Congress as House Democrats pushed through a package of rule changes Tuesday that the furious Republican minority said trampled their traditional rights to affect legislation.” Well that is just politics you say, why should it matter to human resources? That reason is this change:”The most contentious rule change places new restrictions on motions to “recommit” a bill for new amendments to the committee that approved it. In practice, that motion often meant a lengthy or even permanent delay in passing the measure. Motions to recommit would still be possible, but the new rules allow the full House to reconsider the bill almost instantaneously.” Ok, so what, how does that affect HR?

It affects HR in that it makes it almost impossible for Republican Representatives to have legislation they think is bad for the country reconsidered. And for many this includes the two pieces of legislation that are being acted on RIGHT NOW, AS IN JANUARY 7TH. These are the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act. Both of these may be noble in thought but are bad in execution. SHRM, The U.S. Chamber of Congress and other business associations are all lined up in opposition to these bills.

But this opposition, and the letter writing campaign SHRM called for may come too late. These bills are being pushed through the House as I write this and with the rules changes House opponents may have no opportunity to stop or have have the bills reconsidered. New Congressional Representatives are being asked to vote on something they have had no time to get educated on. (Of course, I believe most Representatives don’t have a clue about how businesses operate anyway. Most have never had to make a payroll.)

The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act would effectively eliminate the uniform statue of limitations on pay discrimination claims and restart the time clock for filing such a charge with the EEOC upon the receipt of each successive paycheck. The bill would also re-start the time clock when a retiree receives an annuity check from an employer, and would thus keep employers liable to a discrimination claim potentially decades after an alleged act of misconduct. The legislation would amend the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would limit an employer’s ability to justify paying different salaries to workers based in different locations with different costs of living. Second, the bill would lift the caps on compensatory or punitive damages for which employers would be liable, in addition to current liability for back pay. These damage penalties would apply to even unintentional pay disparities.

A third piece of legislation, the Employee Free Choice Act, may also soon be offered on the floor but opinions vary on its immediate chances of success. The other two are considered “low hanging fruit” (after all who is not for fairness?). Here are two articles that offer slightly different points of view on these issues. Workplace legislation coming to a head in Congress from the Kansas City Star and Labor Unions’ Top Priority Faces Delay from the Wall Street Journal. Check them out. I would offer to send you to SHRM’s website for information too… BUT THEY DON’T HAVE ANY VISIBLE! Yes they sent a letter to the membership but how about posting it for everyone to see?? I am gravely disappointed.

Don’t be passive with this legislation. Inform you legislator of your opinion, either pro or con. I wrote about this, here, in reference to the election. The advice offered there still applies.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

E James (Jim) Brennan January 8, 2009 at 10:49 am

If you really MEAN that statement, “The Paycheck Fairness Act would limit an employer’s ability to justify paying different salaries to workers based in different locations with different costs of living,” you will have serious credibility problems with compendation professionals. HR/comp consultants SHOULD know that competitive markets determine wages and salaries, absent goverment edict or union contract. COL is what you spend, while pay is what you earn. The two are neither the same nor consistently predictively related in a statistically reliable manner. If you tie pay to CPI, you ignore the open market and fall into the government/union trap.

E. James (Jim) Brennan

Reply

Michael D. Haberman, SPHR January 8, 2009 at 11:32 am

Well Jim that statement was taken directly from the SHRM press release on the legislation, so if they errored then yes I did to. I will ask Ann Bares to weigh in on your comment.

Reply

Ann Bares January 8, 2009 at 1:43 pm

Mike (and Jim):

I think my friend Jim is making the “cost of living versus cost of labor” distinction, referring to the fact that many of us in the compensation field prefer that geographic salary differences are based on actual local pay practices (what you earn), not cost of living (what you spend). I’ve posted on the same topic, probably ad nauseum.

Jim, I think Mike’s point (which is really SHRM’s point, as that is who he is quoting)is still well taken at its essence, expressing the concern many of us have that the PFA would (in your words) “trample open market pay practices” whether we are talking about geographic market practices or the market valuation of jobs.

The good thing here is that we are all paying attention to and having discussion about pending pay legislation. May it spread!

Reply

Michael D. Haberman, SPHR January 8, 2009 at 1:57 pm

Thanks Ann for your clarification on this. I appreciate the comp lesson from you and Jim.

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