By Paul H. Kehoe

Earlier this week, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) held an important full committee hearing on The Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 84), which would expand the scope of the Equal Pay Act in an effort to resolve alleged pay disparities between men and women. Seyfarth’s Camille Olson testified at the hearing on behalf of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where she serves as Chairwoman of its policy advisory committee on equal employment opportunity. Olson appeared on a panel of Senate witnesses which included professor Deborah Thompson Eisenberg from the University of Maryland’s Francis King Carey School of Law; ReShonda Young, a small business owner and manager from Iowa; and Kerri Sleeman, a mechanical engineer from Michigan.

Representing the Chamber, the world’s largest business federation of more than 3 million businesses and organizations of every size, industry sector and geographical region, Olson raised three primary concerns over the Paycheck Fairness Act. According to Olson’s testimony, the Chamber strongly opposes the Act because, if passed, it would further expand remedies under the Equal Pay Act to:

1)    Impose harsher, “lottery-type” penalties of unlimited compensatory and punitive damages, upon all employers, regardless of size, and without a showing of intentional sex discrimination;

2)    Effectively eliminate the factor other than sex defense; and

3)    Provide a more attorney-friendly class action device, among other amendments.  

Following this Senate HELP Committee hearing, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has scheduled a Senate floor vote for Tuesday, April 9. Olson’s testimony, notably, marks the third time that a Seyfarth attorney has testified before Congress regarding the Paycheck Fairness Act.