Charlotte Hays

White House insider Valerie Jarrett, meanwhile, put in an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" as part of the White House’ Equal Pay Day package. ValJar was there to talk about the president’s new rule, issued on Equal Pay Day, that federal contractors can’t punish employees for sharing their salary information with their colleagues. These new rules are window-dressing—workers already have the right to discuss their salaries under currently law-- but nevertheless ValJar made a bizarre claim: that the new executive orders will prevent law suits. What planet is she on? Planet Cynical. These regulations have the potential to enrich trial lawyers at the expense of business—which is the whole point of the “Paycheck Fairness Act.” These proposals are Hamburger Helper for trial lawyers.

Jarrett and the trial lawyers, who aren’t major Democratic contributors for eleemosynary reasons, know that she was being disingenuous. But she deserves to be quoted. “Employers also should welcome these new tools that they'll have available so they can avoid lawsuits, because they'll have the statistics to be able to correct pay discrepancies before it ever gets to litigation.”

‘With this new transparency,” she continued, “we can have an honest conversation. So many times women have no idea that they're being discriminated against. They have no idea what their counterparts are making.

"They haven't analyzed the statistics to know that women are being paid less than men. And so since we have this wage gap, let's have our conversation and let's figure out how to close it.

Actually, the reason employers don’t know that they are discriminating is that generally they aren’t—or at least, not on the basis of gender. They may be discriminating in favor of ambitious and hardworking employees who want to get ahead and are willing to put in a good day’s work (and more) every day. But this, of course, isn’t discriminating. Paying such employees more makes sense, and, moreover, is just.

Employers aren’t likely to view you as “Male, Age 25” or “Female, Age 47,” but as workers who are individuals and do a job well or don’t do a job well. But if we know what our colleagues make, we’re likely to think not, I must work harder to be as valuable as George over there or Mary, who gets into the office before me and leaves late but, “They are discriminating against me.”

We can’t deny that there may be pockets of gender discrimination—but they are just that: pockets. Such discrimination by gender has been illegal since the Equal Pay Act of 1963. But what these rules do, at least in the small world of federal contracting, is reduce employees to “Male, Age 25” and “Female, 27” without considering what they contribute in the workplace. Indeed, what these regulations are likely to accomplish is a decline in industriousness—once, as Charles Murray has noted, the “defining” American virtue—as willingness to work and talent take a back seat to gender. Workers become cogs rather than people who have a vested interest in doing their jobs to the best of their abilities. These regulations are yet another manifestation of the you-didn’t-build-that mentality, and, as such, constitute a war on the work ethic.

An employer, of course, could reward productive employees, even under these new regulations—but this would bring risk.

The employer might end up paying hefty legal bills to claim that Bill was a hard worker, while plaintiff Joan spent the whole day at the water cooler. Not to cast aspersions on Lily Ledbetter—after whom President Obama’s first “Fair Pay Act” effort was named, and who may for all I know have been Employee of the Year—but legal writer Stuart Taylor reported that Ledbetter was beset by years of poor job evaluations as a Goodyear employee. It is at least worth entertaining the notion that perhaps these evaluations, and not Mrs. Ledbetter’s gender, were the chief reason she was paid less well than her male counterparts.

Because the Ledbetter Act extends the time an employee can sue, all the evidence is likely to be gone by the time the case comes to court.

Nothing stirs up as much bitterness in the workplace as knowing that somebody makes more and being jealous. This would supply endless fodder for lawsuits. But, as long as Ms. Jarrett thinks it’s such a good idea, I am going to look up her salary and see what I am paying her.

Something tells me she is not a victim of discrimination.

Charlotte Hays

Director of Cultural Programs at the Independent Women's Forum.