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When "Real Life" and Blogging Collide on Equal Pay

“It’s indisputable that there’s a real pay gap. People can argue about how big, but that’s almost besides the point. … The point is that every woman, every girl deserves to get paid what they’re worth.”  - Sheryl Sandberg
As you know, in my "real life" I am an attorney. As part of that gig, I attend Continuing Legal Education to keep my skills up and education sharp. Today I attended one entitled, "Key Issues for Employers in the Last Year of the Obama Administration". I was expecting it to be informative, educational, and potentially a little dry. Instead, the presenters gratuitous comments about pay disparity got me riled up!

The presenter expressed the following sentiments,  "The Obama administration's focus on pay equity is a misguided conversation because women make choices about staying with parents and children. So, the pay gap isn't about discrimination, it's about choices." He said this comment as if it was an indisputable fact.

I was astounded.

Pay Disparity is Not a Figment of Anybody's Imagination

Indeed, last week was "Equal Pay Day" and I expressed my outrage in a post about the pay inequity that exists. I am on a board that conducted an "Equal Pay Day Rally" and I spread the word about it. While I didn't believe that everyone I know would attend, I thought they would be supportive of the notion of equality. Imagine my surprise when the speaker expressed the above sentiments in a room that contained 50% women.

Proving Pay Inequity Requires Evidence, But it Does Exist 

I am a lawyer, a good one. I also used to defend employers in employment discrimination charges. So, I understand that the plaintiff has the burden of proving discrimination and he/she can only carry that burden upon production of actual evidence. Accordingly, whether a particular employee's experience is the product of discrimination is fact specific, should be thoroughly analyzed, and there should be no rush to judgment.

Still, there are the stories of thousands of women, perhaps more, that show us that the disparity is real. 

That being said, most defense lawyers I know, including me, believe that there are cases in which employment discrimination actually happens. Saying categorically that pay disparity doesn't exist because women "make choices" is overly simplistic, unfair, and illustrates a misunderstanding of the issues on the part of the speaker. 

Prior Pay Disparity Posts

6 days ago ... Equal Pay Day remains necessary until America achieves pay equity for women and men. 
Apr 23, 2015 ... A Peek Into the Life of a Working Mom: Eliminating Pay Disparity ... Equal Pay Day was last week and they reported that women get paid $.77 ... 

Feb 25, 2015 ... A Peek Into the Life of a Working Mom: It is time for equal pay for equal work ... It's Equal Pay Day and We Have a Long Way to Go Baby!

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