Wisconsin governor Scott Walker signed a number of bills yesterday, including a bill that repeals a bill passed just three years ago that goes by the name of the "Equal Pay Enforcement Act." That bill had increased the kinds of damages allowable in employment law cases under Wisconsin state law. Now Wisconsin is back to the employment law regime that it had in place for the sixty-five or so years before 2009. So Walker has sent Wisconsin employment law back to the dark days of the early Obama years.
As I previously explained in a couple of posts, many people have mistakenly claimed that this bill eliminates the requirement of equal pay for women in Wisconsin, or that it eliminates the enforcement mechanism of the equal pay law. That is false. This bill has nothing to do with equal pay, and nothing specifically to do with discrimination against women. It applies to all employment discrimination claims.
This mistake is surely caused by the curious title of the bill being repealed, the "Equal Pay Enforcement Act," which calls to mind the federal "Equal Pay Act" which does enshrine the principle of equal pay for equal work. But the federal Equal Pay Act and the Wisconsin Equal Pay Enforcement Act actually had nothing to do with each other, and equal pay for equal work remains the law in Wisconsin.
Still, if you search for commentary today on Walker signing the repeal bill, you will find much false rhetoric that Walker has somehow repealed the principle of equal pay for equal work in Wisconsin, or that this bill is a step back for women's rights. For example, Democratic candidate for governor Kathleen Falk says Walker has "turned back the clock for women across Wisconsin." Again, he's turned the clock all the way back to the bad old days of 2009.
As I mentioned in a comment to my earlier post, it seems to me what's going on here is a pointless partisan volleyball match. Democrats passed a pointless bill to appease their constituents back in 2009, and Republicans have more or less pointlessly repealed it to please their constituents now that they're in power. Side out. The bill was unnecessary, but it was probably unnecessary to repeal it. My own preference is for fewer pointless laws, so I don't have a big problem with what the Wisconsin Republicans have done.
What I do kind of have a problem with is the "war on women" rhetoric surrounding this. Democrats have made this a rallying cry for their 2012 campaign. This is one supposed front in the alleged war, and it's the only one I've taken the time to investigate. And when I did, I found that I was being shamelessly lied to. I am therefore inclined to believe that all of the "war on women" rhetoric is false.