Fair Pay Act likely to roil workplace with new bias complaints

One of the first bills that President Barack Obama signs this week, the Fair Pay Act, could result in more women suing over being paid less than men. This new activity in the Capitol has stirred conversations in boardrooms, law offices, factory floors -- even newsrooms. Why aren't women earning as much as men and should salaries be openly discussed?

Richard Tuschman, a South Florida labor lawyer, says until women make different choices, their incomes won't rise, no matter how many bills are signed into law. By "choices," he's talking about the careers they pursue, the hours they work, the jobs within their industries they hold and the parenting decisions they make.

''I'm not suggesting some women don't get paid equal for the same work as men,'' Tuschman says. "But the numbers being bandied about suggest it's a huge problem and that's just not the case.''

I challenged Tuschman to walk into almost any sizable workplace in South Florida and peruse the payroll. I'm convinced that Tuschman would find pay discrepancies between men and women in the same jobs. As a business writer, I've plowed through public-company records, talked to business owners and asked people at all levels for salary information. Walk into a corporate law firm, I told him, you will see that I am right.

But Tuschman comes back with the argument that many female lawyers choose to work flexible schedules and reduced hours. They also choose less lucrative areas of law and, he adds, "men have had better networks to build business so they tend to earn more money.''

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