Seidel Misleads on Equal Pay

Guest column by
Rebecca Hogan, Director of Health and Human Resources Policy

Rebecca Hogan
Rebecca Hogan, Director of
Health and Human Resources Policy

 

Political division certainly leads to political rhetoric. This heightened division we have in Wisconsin, however, should not lead to lies and fabrications.

Democrats, in their allegations of Republicans waging a “war on women,” specifically cite Wisconsin Act 219 — recently signed legislation which they claim takes away “equal pay for women.”

The bill does no such thing. Yet Rep. Donna Seidel, who is running for the open Senate seat in the upcoming recall election against Rep. Jerry Petrowski, has joined the “war on women” chorus by issuing a false ad and accusing him of “opposing equal pay for women.” She continues her accusations in a recent column published in the Wausau Daily Herald.

The truth is Act 219 does not take away equal pay. Instead, it repeals a misguided law enacted in 2009 by then Gov. Jim Doyle and supported by Rep. Seidel, other legislative Democrats, and last but certainly not least, trial attorneys.

The 2009 law imposed, for the first time ever, punitive damages on Wisconsin job creators for alleged workplace discrimination. As a result, businesses could be slapped with punitive damages up to $300,000. Moreover, the law indexed these awards to inflation. As such, plaintiff attorney payouts would increase.

Act 219’s repeal of the 2009 law still allows women, along with any other person alleging workplace discrimination, to sue an employer. The new law still allows an employee to seek reinstatement of his or her job and back pay up to two years, along with attorney fees and court costs.

Additionally, those who wish to seek punitive damages still can do so in federal court under federal law. Act 219 simply removes the duplicative and unnecessary punitive and compensatory damage awards from Wisconsin statutes.

Plaintiff attorneys have filed lawsuits seeking punitive and compensatory damages, and even in situations where no discrimination has occurred, job creators were forced to pay larger settlements as a result. It’s simply too costly for businesses to fight these often frivolous claims in court and therefore they settle the cases to make them go away. At a time when Wisconsin’s economy is starting to improve, the last thing Wisconsin job creators can afford are laws that make it harder for them to hire.

Lastly, what’s most offensive is Rep. Seidel’s willingness to mislead the women she hopes to represent. Women will vote for the candidate who best represents their values, is confident and is honest. Accusing Republicans of taking away equal pay for women is not honest.

Women deserve better.

Wausau Daily Herald – April 24, 2012