This past week, current State Treasurer Lynn Fitch announced her intentions for the upcoming legislative session for a bill to address “gender gap” issues in Mississippi.
She addressed it in a longer form in a Clarion Ledger op-ed in October where she talked about the efforts of the City of Clinton.
That is why efforts like Clinton’s are so important. City leaders made a conscious effort to review employee salaries to address any pay inequities. Their comprehensive two-and-a-half year study looked at every angle to ensure that women and men are paid fairly and equally for comparable work. Legislation the Treasurer’s office brought to the Legislature earlier this year would have promoted a similar concept for businesses. Modeled on a Massachusetts law, this legislation would have encouraged businesses to voluntarily conduct studies like Clinton’s. Employers who took this step would have an affirmative defense in court should they ever find themselves defendants in a gender pay dispute.
Both she and Rep. Mark Baker have both been rumored to be in the mix for a run for Attorney General in 2019. Baker fired back in seeming direct opposition to Treasurer Fitch’s proposal.
That’s the news, now here’s the opinion.
If there is a problem with men and women in Mississippi systemically not receiving equal pay for equal work, companies and specific offenders should be called out. If Treasurer Fitch has found credible evidence of violators, she’s in a pretty unique position to make an example of them. With the myriad of federal laws on the books, it hardly seems to be the conservative position to act another law to enact yet another obligation on employers. Hiring folks and complying with all applicable laws is unquestionably hard enough as it is. As an employer, I don’t want to have an obligation to do something so I have “an affirmative defense”. I’d rather just do the right thing and not get sued. Otherwise, this idea is just an invitation for trial lawyers to file more frivolous state actions that costs jobs and hurts investment.
With Baker locked in, it’s hard to see this particular proposed bill getting traction among House leaders. But this proxy fight may well unfold on this issue.
Regardless, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or both of these candidates in an AGs race in 2019, and there are possibly others.