US Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions

Alexander: Congress Should Focus on More Flexibility for Working Parents, Not Higher Incomes for Trial Lawyers

Says Paycheck Fairness Act is about “more litigation, more lawyers, higher income for trial lawyers, and more class action lawsuits”

Tuesday, April 01, 2014Liz Wolgemuth 202-228-4729

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“Instead of a law like the one proposed here, which would literally reduce the flexibility that employers can provide their employees to do things like go to their child’s football game or the school play. I think we need more flexibility.” –Lamar Alexander

Washington, D.C., April 1 – U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the senior Republican on the Senate labor committee, said today that Congress should focus on finding ways to provide more flexibility for working parents, rather than “higher incomes for trial lawyers,” under the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Alexander said of the Paycheck Fairness Act, “This takes existing law—which makes it clear that if an employer pays a female less than a male counterpart or a male less than a female, that’s against the federal law and there are plenty of opportunities to address that—and this would expand the litigation.”

“Instead of a law like the one proposed here, which would literally reduce the flexibility that employers can provide their employees to do things like go to their child’s football game or the school play. I think we need more flexibility,” Alexander said.

Alexander said that years ago he helped start a child care company with Bob Keeshan of Captain Kangaroo that later merged with Bright Horizons to become the largest worksite daycare provider in the country.

“We recognized that probably the most important social phenomenon in our country over the last 30 or 40 years are the number of women working outside the home. And typically, many of them had young children and the idea was that we would help corporations provide worksite daycare centers that were safe and good for those moms and dads as well,” Alexander said.

“We did a lot of surveys and what we found out was that in many cases, more important than pay was flexibility in the workforce. That a mom or a dad with a young child who was working outside the home, didn’t want to miss the school play, didn’t want to miss the football game, wanted to be available to deal with a sick child.”

Alexander gave an example of workplace flexibility, citing a situation where a mother of two children might ask to work the day shift instead of the night shift, “and for exactly the same work, you might pay a man more for the night shift or vice versa.”

“Under current law, arguably, you could do that. Under the proposed law, it would reduce the flexibility employers have in the workforce.”

Alexander asked for a committee markup on Paycheck Fairness, so members could have an opportunity to debate and amend the legislation.

“I’ve noticed, and I will give my Democratic friends credit for being very forthright about what they are doing here: Here is a big article in the New York Times a few days ago where Senator Schumer announced their 10-part political plan, including this bill, to try to recapture some political ground because of the disaster Obamacare has been.”

“And they say privately White House officials – this is the New York Times – say they have no intention of searching for any grand bargain with Republicans on any of the issues. The point isn’t to compromise. I give them credit for being straightforward.

“But the Democratic jobs agenda is more like a war on jobs. Obamacare is causing restaurant companies to reduce their number of employees. We had testimony right here on the minimum wage where the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office said it will cost 500,000 jobs. And the Paycheck Fairness proposal really reduces the flexibility that employers would have to help working parents go to the school play or have other opportunities to be with their children.

“When it comes to the floor, we’ll have a large number of amendments aimed at the goal of giving working parents more flexibility in the workplace so they can be better parents.”

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