Kamala Harris Wants Government to Get Involved in Determining People's Salaries

By Susan Jones | May 21, 2019 | 5:44am EDT
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), one of two dozen Democrats running for president, has a new campaign issue: closing the alleged gender pay gap.

"Well first of all, it is just a fact, right?" Harris told MSNBC's Ari Melber on Monday.

So the reality of it is that we don't have to debate the point, which is that on average women make 80 cents on the dollar to men. If you're talking about African-American women, that's 61 cents. If it's Latinas, it's 53 cents.

So there is an obvious issue that we have around not only disparities but fairness and equal pay for equal work. So let's get beyond that because it's not a debatable point. The question becomes what are going to do about it.

And I think the goal we would all agree should be that people should be paid equally for equal work. But we haven't yet reached that point and we're going to create incentives to get there. So what I am proposing is that we shift the burden away from that working woman and instead onto that corporation to prove that their paying people equally.

Because here's the reality of it, Ari, every day in America there are women who are, you know, hanging out at the water cooler with one of their colleagues who works in the cubical right next to them, does the same work they're doing, and then they might start talking about what they got their kids for Christmas or, you know, what the new car is or the new washing machine they bought.

And it becomes clear to that women they're not getting paid the same amount. So then what does she do? She'll go to the -- the supervisor, are we getting paid the same amount and the supervisor is likely to tell her we can't disclose salaries of other people.

So then what is she supposed to do? Well, she can go and complain to the EOC. She can try and do her own work to investigate the salaries. She might take it as far as litigation to sue. But why should she and have the burden on her to figure out that she is not being paid the same amount. That should be the business of the -- of the leaders of these corporations.

Harris wants to put the onus on corporations to "prove...they're doing the right thing, which is to pay people equally for equal work."

And if they are not, Harris said the corporation should be fined, based on how wide their gender pay gap is.

Harris calls her equal pay proposal "the most aggressive" in history.

Companies would be required to obtain an “Equal Pay Certification”:

-- To receive certification, companies must demonstrate they have eliminated pay disparities between women and men who are doing work of equal value. To the extent pay disparities do exist for similar jobs, companies will be required to show the gap is based on merit, performance, or seniority -- not gender.

-- In applying for certification, companies would have to disclose their pay policies and align them with best-practice standards. For example, companies will be prohibited from asking about prior salary history as part of their hiring process, banned from using forced arbitration agreements in employment contracts for pay discrimination matters, and must allow employees to freely discuss their pay.

-- Companies will be required to report statistics on the percentage of women in leadership positions and the percentage of women who are among the company’s top earners. They will also be required to report the overall pay and total compensation gap that exists between men and women, regardless of job titles, experience, and performance. These statistics will be reported by employees’ race and ethnicity.

-- Companies that fail to receive “Equal Pay Certification” will face a fine for every day they discriminate against their workers. Fines will be assessed based on a company’s average wage gap for work of equal value. For every 1% gap that exists after accounting for differences in job titles, experience, and performance, companies will be fined at 1% of their average daily profits during the last fiscal year.

Harris estimates her plan will generate roughly $180 billion over 10 years, with revenue decreasing over time as strong equal pay practices become part of corporate culture.

(For the record, Harris's campaign website states, "Kamala refuses to accept donations from corporate PACs.")

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