Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Obama's State of the Union 2013 and Employment Law

I confess, I missed most of President Obama's state of the union address last night. Fortunately, there's a transcript here. He did touch on a few employment law issues.

First, he halfheartedly threw a nod to the Paycheck Fairness Act in just one sentence of the speech:
And I ask this Congress to declare that women should earn a living equal to their efforts, and finally pass the Paycheck Fairness Act this year.
I'm not really sure how the PFA gauges earnings and efforts, let alone makes them equal - but I guess his speechwriters thought it sounded nice. The actual aim is to combat sex-based pay discrimination - i.e. it's okay to underpay - as long as you underpay everyone equally!

President Obama also promoted an increase in the federal minimum wage:
Tonight, let's declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour . . . . So here's an idea that Governor Romney and I actually agreed on last year: let's tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, so that it finally becomes a wage you can live on.
That's a 24% increase in case you were wondering. I found it odd that he wants to implement a national minimum wage while seeking to tie that wage to the cost of living. If you really think the minimum wage should correlate to the cost of living, then why would you (just to use an extreme example) implement the same minimum wage in Millheim, Pennsylvania (low cost of living) as Manhattan, New York (high cost of living)? Or would the federal minimum wage be variable based on some local measurement of the cost of living?

Realistically, I see little chance of either the minimum wage hike or the Paycheck Fairness Act passing the House of Representatives. But, stranger things have happened (plus, elections are just two years away!).