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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher April 10, 2012

Dem in Wisconsin governor recall says GOP-backed bill means women "can't do something about" pay discrimination

In making her case to be elected governor in Wisconsin's 2012 recall election, Democrat Kathleen Falk railed against actions taken by Republican Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP-controlled Legislature during a speech on March 24, 2012.

Addressing a candidates forum on the Lac Courte Oreilles Band of Ojibwe reservation in northwestern Wisconsin, Falk made this statement about pay equity for women:

"It used to be, thanks to the work of our Legislature and prior governor, that that man and woman sitting right in the front row there, doing the same job at the workplace, he making a dollar, she making 81 cents to the dollar, doing the same job -- well, until a couple weeks ago, she had a right to do something about it. But the Republican Legislature passed a bill that you said you can't. That bill's on Governor Walker's desk. I've urged him to veto it."  

We previously looked at a claim related to the same bill. We gave a Mostly False to state Rep. Cory Mason, D-Racine, for saying the bill would repeal a law that ensures men and women get equal pay.

Falk's statement is slightly different.

The former Dane County executive claims that women would no longer have "a right to do something" about pay discrimination on the job if the bill is signed by Walker. (The measure won Walker’s approval on April 5, 2012)

Falk’s case

Asked to back up the statement, Falk campaign spokesman Scot Ross said the bill would take away the right of women who suffer pay discrimination to sue in state court, "so there's nothing women can do."

But when we assessed the Mason claim, we found there would still be other recourse for employment discrimination victims:

-- There are two routes to filing an employment discrimination complaint -- the state Equal Rights Division and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

-- If workers prove discrimination using the state system, an administrative law judge can "make them whole" by ordering the employer to pay back pay with interest, legal fees and job reinstatement, if there was a termination. If the discrimination is proved in the federal system, often a "make whole" settlement is reached through mediation.

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-- In either system, discriminated workers can collect larger sums of money from an employer -- compensatory and punitive damages -- only by suing.

Options available

So women suffering pay discrimination could still file a state or federal complaint in an effort to be made whole. And they could still seek larger monetary damages by suing in federal court.

Indeed, the option of suing in state court was instituted only recently, in 2009, under a law adopted when Democrats controlled the Legislature and governor’s office.

A lawyer who specializes in representing workers told us the GOP bill would make it harder on victims of employment discrimination because it is easier to sue in state court than in federal court.

But eliminating the state lawsuit option wouldn't affect the three other avenues of legal recourse available to workplace discrimination victims.

And Falk’s claim was women facing pay discrimination would have no options at all.

Our rating

Falk said women facing pay discrimination can't "do something about it" under a bill passed by Wisconsin Republicans. But of the four legal options available under the current law, only one would be eliminated by the bill.

We rate Falk's statement False.

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Dem in Wisconsin governor recall says GOP-backed bill means women "can't do something about" pay discrimination

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