Written by Nanette Fondas and Katie Bethell
A stay-at-home mother doesn't get a paycheck, so she might wonder if the Fair Pay Restoration Act impacts her life. At first glance it appears not, but a closer look shows that it does affect her and that all moms -- regardless of their stay-at-home or working mother status -- would be wise to support it.
The Fair Pay Restoration Act is a proposed law which would restore the ability of an employee to challenge pay discrimination whenever she or he learns about it. This right was curtailed when the Supreme Court, in a narrow 5-4 opinion, ruled last year that an employee has only 180 days to pursue legal action if he or she suspects pay discrimination.
Many stay-at-home moms make a decision to focus their life's work on their children and families. They don't plan to re-enter the workforce after children are born, so they may not see the relevance of fair pay legislation to their lives. But the operative word here is "plan": although they plan to remain out of the paid workforce to care for children, at-home moms might find that unplanned circumstances lead them back to work, when children enter school, if a spouse is disabled, dies, or divorces them, or if household economics require a second income for the family. Indeed, one MomsRising.org member wrote that she had made the decision to focus her life's work on her children while her husband worked as the income provider for the family. Sadly, her husband died unexpectedly. The mother found that she was unable to find a job, regardless of her qualifications, once people found out that she was a single mother of several children. Employers didn't want to deal with a "single mom." No doubt that when she does finally secure a job, this mom will want (and possibly need) protection against pay discrimination. She is, after all, the family's breadwinner.
Another reason for a stay-at-home mother to support the Fair Pay Restoration Act is that pay discrimination can easily hit home in her extended family: she surely would be outraged to learn that her daughter (or daughter-in-law) was experiencing pay discrimination and see its impact on her loved ones. Think of the drain it would create on a family whose mom is already working like a dog to balance the demands of work and family, only to find out that she's paid less than someone in an equivalent position. No doubt she would consider it unjust for her daughter to have no legal recourse against discrimination. And let us not forget that the Fair Pay Act does not apply solely to women's claims of unfair pay. A stay-at-home mom who is financially dependent on her employed husband might find that he needs protection too.
Finally, and importantly, by not supporting fair pay for women who do work outside the home, we contribute to a society that devalues women and women's work. That impacts at-home mothers in the sense that their caring work is further devalued, as it is seen mostly as "women's work" -- even today. By not valuing fair pay for others, we are not valuing ourselves. We should stand up for all whose work contributes to our society. Even if we do not earn a paycheck ourselves, we should stand for fair pay for those who do.