Opposition To Equal Pay For Equal Work
Free market supporters believe that any legislation supporting equal pay for equal work does in fact harm the very groups the legislation aims to protect. It is believed that free market forces discriminative employers to pay for their prejudice whereas an equal pay for equal work legislation would simply allow those same employers to have no consequence for their prejudice. An employer who holds an unfair prejudice against women will always hire the man, given the requirement to pay both equally. However, if the woman offers to be compensated slightly less than the man despite having equal talents, the employer will have to pay for the prejudice by still hiring the man. In this case, a competitor now has access to an employee who is both equally skilled and willing to work for less, which will thus put the discriminating employer at a competitive disadvantage.
Free market supporters believe that government actions to correct gender pay disparity serve to interfere with the system of voluntary exchange. They see the fundamental issue is that the employer is the owner of the job, not the government or the employee. The employer negotiates the job and pays according to performance, not according to job duties. A private business would not want to lose its best performers by compensating them less and can ill afford paying its lower performers higher because the overall productivity will decline.
There are also specific affirmative defenses to the criticism above that government is forcing employers to pay less qualified workers the same as superior workers. The EPA's four affirmative defenses allows unequal pay for equal work when the wages are set "pursuant to (i) a seniority system; (ii) a merit system; (iii) a system which measures earnings by quantity or quality of production; or (iv) ... any other factor other than sex." If an employer can prove that a pay differential exists because of one of these factors, there is no liability.
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