EEOC Rejects Comparable Worth Theory as Tool in Battling Discrimination on Job
In its first decision on the issue, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled Monday that it was rejecting comparable worth as a means of determining job discrimination.
In a 5-0 ruling, the commission said the theory of comparable worth, or paying men and women the same when they have jobs that require equal training and responsibility, is not recognized under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The ruling was condemned by several labor unions and endorsed by groups representing employers.
The case before the EEOC involved a municipal housing authority in Rockford, Ill., with an administrative staff that was 85% female and a maintenance staff that was 88% male.
Women Paid Less
The female administrative employees and their union said that they were paid less than employees on the maintenance staff, even though the administrative jobs required at least as much skill.
The housing authority discriminated by basing wage increases for the predominantly female jobs below the prevailing wages of the area while basing increases for predominantly male positions equal to prevailing rates, said the women and the union.
The commission said that the wage increases were arrived at through the collective bargaining process and that pay for administrative and maintenance staff exceeded the prevailing community rate.
“We found that sole reliance on a comparison of the intrinsic value of dissimilar jobs--which command different wages in the market--does not prove a violation of Title VII,” EEOC Chairman Clarence Thomas told a news conference.
“We are convinced,” he said, “that Congress never authorized the government to take on wholesale restructuring of wages that were set by non-sex-based decisions of employers--by collective bargaining--or by the marketplace.”
“The commission’s actions are just the most recent actions by the Administration which seek to choke off the nationwide movement towards remedying sex-based wage discrimination for millions of working women,” said Gerald W. McEntee, president of the 1.1-million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents the women at the Rockford housing authority.
Virginia Lamp, a labor relations attorney for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, praised the decision.
“Rather than using our civil rights laws to identify and address discrimination as it exists in the workplace,” said Lamp, “comparable worth advocates want to label a social phenomenon--the fact that women on average make less than men on average--as ‘discrimination’ and then use our civil rights laws for purposes for which they were never intended.”