If a chemical plant inadvertently dumps poisonous chemicals in a local water source, they’re liable. If a restaurant inadvertently causes food poisoning in its customers, it’s liable. Yet, if a company inadvertently pays women less than men? In many cases, this isn’t a problem.
That’s why bills like the one recently proposed in Louisiana are so important. The Louisiana law would make unintentional discrimination illegal. Right now, for private businesses in the state, only intentional discrimination is illegal. In other words, “Oh, I didn’t realize women in my organization only make half what their male peers make,” is a legitimate excuse for paying women less.
The state already bans unintentional discrimination under the Equal Pay for Women Act passed last year. Now Democrats are trying to expand the law to cover private businesses. Louisiana does not have a great record on this issues, as women in the state take home only 67 cents for every dollar earned by a man. This law is a big step in the right direction.
If there is one thing that women tell me when I interview them about sex discrimination at work, it’s that it’s subtle. Subtle, subtle subtle. There’s obviously nothing in writing saying women should receive less money because of their gender. No policies stating men should get promoted ahead of women. If you have to prove intent, you might as well give up.