Civil Rights Commission Hits 'Comparable Worth' Concept

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WASHINGTON (UPI) - The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Thursday said the concept of comparable worth should not be used as a means of ending employment discrimination against women.

On a 5-2 vote, with one commissioner abstaining, the commission adopted a draft statement that said while sex-based wage discrimination does exist, the concept of comparable worth is not a proper means of combatting such discrimination.

Comparable worth - the notion that equal pay should be granted to women who hold jobs of comparable skill, knowledge and responsibility as men - has frequently been advanced as a means of overcoming the gap in wages between men and women. The concept covers different work and is not the same as equal pay for the same job.

""There are currently existing ways to remedy (sex-based discrimination) and the implementation of the unsound and misplaced concept of comparable worth would be a serious error,'' the commission said.

Voting against the adoption of the statement were Commissioners Mary Frances Berry and Blandina Cardenas Ramierez, the two remaining liberals on the commission. Commissioner Frances Guess, commissioner of labor of Tennessee, abstained from voting because of his state job.

Chairman Clarence Pendleton supported the statement along with Vice Chairman Morris Abram, Esther Gonzalez-Arroyo Buckley, John H. Bunzel and Robert A. Destro.

The commission, dominated by Reagan appointments, voted after a 2 1/2 hour discussion of the emotional issue.

""Comparable worth or pay equity, like any other concept, should be applied prudently with a full recognition of any limitations that might exist,'' Berry and Ramierez said in their dissent.'''

""But its use can be an important tool in the aresenal for attacking employment discrimination.'' Adoption of the statement, which does not have the force of law but is merely a stance of the commission, was immediately attacked by unions and women's organization. …