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Exploring Pay Equity with Legal Expert Heather Bussing

Recorded live at the HR Tech Conference from the Fuel50 booth in Las Vegas, Chad & Cheese are joined by Heather Bussing, a legal expert in employment law. They discuss the topic of pay equity and how it impacts diversity and inclusion in the workplace. They explore how technology can help address pay equity issues and the importance of pay transparency. They also touch on the rise of unions and the impact of COVID-19 on changing perspectives in the workforce. Heather shares her insights on how employers can navigate these challenges and ensure fair compensation for their employees. To learn more about Fuel50, visit


Chad: Coming to you live from the Fuel 50 booth at the heart of HR Tech. It's the Chad and Cheese podcast. We are diving deep into the world of HR technology, tackling workforce challenges with innovative solutions and we'd like to give special thanks to Fuel 50, the scienced- based talent marketplace that bridges skills gaps, unlocks hidden potential and supports better retention and engagement. Let's do this.

Intro Music: Hide your kids. Lock the doors. You're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheeseman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion and loads of snark. Buckle up boys and girls. It's time for the Chad and Cheese podcast.

Joel: Oh, yeah. What's up everybody? It's your parole officer's favorite podcast, AKA, the Chad and Cheese podcast. I'm your co-host, Joel Cheeseman. Joined as always the black to my Jack.

Chad: Yes.

Joel: Chad Sowash. And we are happy to welcome Heather Bussing of Bussing Law to the show.

Chad: Bussing Law. You need to like, if you do commercials, you need that Monster Truck Bussing law.

Joel: Sunday. Sunday. Sunday. Sunday. Bus. Bus. Bus. Bus. Bus. Bus. It's like prestige...

Chad: Prestige at Global.

Joel: Prestige Global.

Chad: Okay. Heather, so you have already finished your talk, which is why you're so relaxed, which is why you're so relaxed.

Heather Bussing: I'm so happy.

Joel: She's barefoot.

Chad: And I appreciate that.

Joel: Crisscrossed applesauce on the chair, man.

Chad: I love it.

Heather Bussing: Yes. Well, it's because my feet don't touch the floor.

Chad: That's nice. That's nice.

Joel: I think the chairs move up and down. I'll have to look at it later.

Heather Bussing: My name is and I'm five years old.

Joel: So what'd you talk about?

Chad: What did you... Yeah. What'd you talk about yesterday?

Heather Bussing: We talked about pay equity.

Chad: Okay, that's big.

Heather Bussing: We talked about how pay equity can begin to change your DE&I focus.

Chad: How's that work? Okay. Because for me, this is more about equity.

Heather Bussing: Yes.

Chad: Than it is diversity and inclusion, right?

Heather Bussing: Yeah. Yeah.

Chad: So how do we get those others in there as we're working on equity?

Heather Bussing: Yeah. There's a couple things. One is pay equity involves money.

Chad: Yeah.

Heather Bussing: So if you get that right...

Chad: And/or lack of money. Yes.

Heather Bussing: Yeah. Well, but money is a proxy for so many things in an organization.

Chad: That's a good point. Yeah, that's a great point. Yeah.

Heather Bussing: A budget is a statement of values and what you pay people is...

Joel: Keeping score.

Heather Bussing: Keeping score. Yeah. Exactly. So if you can start to get that right, it's just math, right? So you can route around all of the, you really need to do x because you can see it.

Chad: But it's just math. But that is math in many cases that actually impacts the margins so therefore, that's one of the reasons why if you can pay your people lower and this is how obviously management has fought for many, many, many, many, many years, why not get away with it? If you can pay them lower, then we get more money into our pockets, margin wise, stock buybacks, all that other fund stuff. So why not do that? So why has it taken so long? We're not a parity right now, right?

Heather Bussing: Oh no.

Chad: We're in 2023 and we're still seeing huge gaps.

Heather Bussing: Yep.

Chad: Why, if it's just a math problem, why are we still seeing this problem?

Heather Bussing: Because until now we had to do multi-variate regressions on Excel spreadsheets.

Joel: Bless you. What did she say?

Chad: Did she say that out loud?

Joel: You need to dumb it down for the Chad and Cheese show.

Chad: This is a kid friendly podcast. Watch your mouth, Heather.

Joel: Yeah. Watch out.

Heather Bussing: So what you have to...

Joel: Alright. Go, dig into that.

Heather Bussing: Yeah. What you had to do was do a statistical analysis...

Chad: Yes.

Heather Bussing: About who was paid in what pay grades and then figure out if the outliers were correlated to a protected class. Usually gender, but race is also pretty common.

Chad: Yeah.

Heather Bussing: But with technology now we can do all the protected classes.

Chad: Yes.

Heather Bussing: So we can track that if we have the data and we don't have data on everything like LGBTQ.

Chad: Right. Because not, well, not everybody identifies either.

Heather Bussing: Exactly. And I don't blame them. So the statistical work is much easier and then once you have figured out how to group your comparable jobs, because what we've been doing until now is we look at people's job titles and we look at their pay grade.

Chad: Okay.

Heather Bussing: And then we compare their pay. And that's not really comparing whether there's equal work for equal pay.

Chad: Okay.

Heather Bussing: It's whether there's equal pay for equal pay. So you end up with a self licking ice cream cone that doesn't really tell you anything. But it's always good news.

Joel: Again, with the potty mouth, the self licking ice cream, self licking ice cream.

Chad: I think, yeah. I think that's...

Joel: Give us the current state of pay equity. We had when DEI was popular and everyone was talking about it, this was a hot issue. We've seen laws passed recently. We saw Indeed require pay range.

Chad: Or they inserted it.

Joel: Although we've seen companies get around that. Give us the current state of the issue of pay transparency.

Heather Bussing: Okay. Well first I wanna talk about Claudia Goldin who won the Nobel Prize this week.

Chad: Yes.

Heather Bussing: For her work on women in the workplace. And basically she said, we stalled out during the pandemic and women lost ground and pay equity and there are still tremendous gaps between men and women doing the exact same jobs.

Chad: But why? Because the math is there, the platforms are there. It just seems like to me and this is, I think the missing piece, the will is not there, the will of organizations. And at this point, unless organizations are mandated to do this, it's not going to happen. So what do we do? Without the government, what are we gonna do? We're gonna sit here, we're gonna continue to have this conversation.

Heather Bussing: This is where pay transparency helps, right?

Chad: Yes.

Heather Bussing: Because if everybody has to post legitimate pay ranges, not just wild...

Joel: Not zero to 2 million.

Heather Bussing: Right, exactly.

Chad: But that's just on the incoming, right? What about all the disparity that's happening within the actual workforce itself? I know that's a start for people coming in and the people on the outside can look out to these jobs and say, wait a minute, I'm not getting paid that salary. So there is some of that, but that's an external, what about the current internal parity that we just can't see?

Heather Bussing: Technology can help because we're getting much, much better at being able to understand the work. So, we're looking at skills, developing skills, taxonomies, figuring out what's involved in the work. It's early days, but we're also getting better job descriptions because there is technology that can help create that so that you don't have to get all the weird things out of recruiting C drives and all this stuff over at worker's comp, so once we have a really great understanding of the work, we can get really accurate analysis and assessment of what's going on with pay equity. And then it's cheaper to fix it.

Joel: Yeah.

Heather Bussing: It's cheaper to fix it than fight about it. It's also evidence.

Chad: But if they're getting away with it now, it's not costing them anything right now.

Heather Bussing: Well, California is requiring companies to report pay to the regulators and they have the same technology that we do.

Chad: Yeah. So you're talking about these platforms. Give us some ideas of some platforms that you would suggest for any company who really cares about pay equity.

Heather Bussing: Yeah. Well, let me make my FTC disclosure.


Joel: Sure.


Heather Bussing: I do a lot of content work for and ADP and they are both on track and doing amazing work.

Chad: Now what about startups like Syndio? Those are companies that are just specifically focused, narrowly focused on pay equity. What about companies like that?

Heather Bussing: It depends on how they've approached the, how do we compare the work aspect. And I don't know. Part of what I'm here to do today is go around and find out what people are doing.

Chad: Great.

Heather Bussing: So I will check them out. Thank you.

Joel: So Chad talks about government and regulations, There's a piece of that. I think a certain segment would say the market is taking care of a lot of this. In other words...

Chad: Bullshit.

Joel: I know that if I have a pay range, the applicants I get are going to be more qualified 'cause they're gonna be in that pay range expectation. Obviously services like pay scale and whatnot sheds a light on what people are getting paid, that people are more informed. What do you say to the, "Well, the market is taking care of some of that," argument.

Heather Bussing: I think that's right. I think we also have to look at sheer demographics because we saw labor shortage after the pandemic. We've seen job growth ever since. And the reality is that women are waiting longer to have kids. They're having fewer kids. We have immigration policies that make it very hard for people to come in and work. And we've got an aging population that is retiring. So we have a labor shortage for the foreseeable future. But how that shakes out in individual jobs is always gonna ebb and flow.

Joel: Your angle on market taking care of it is that boomers are retiring at a 10,000 plus per day clip. Eventually there'll be a shortage, pay will equal out and everything will be hunky dory or closer to what it is now.

Heather Bussing: Hopefully.

Chad: When has that ever happened in our society...

Heather Bussing: But it will.

Chad: With the market 'cause the market's never fixed it before. So why do you think the market's gonna fix it now?

Joel: I'm just asking our guest here.

Chad: I'm asking, historically...

Heather Bussing: I think it will help.

Chad: The market didn't, it won't fix it.

Joel: My question was, there is a segment that will say the market will take care of some of that.

Chad: No, I heard that.

Joel: You don't need the government to come down. I was asking her take on market forces versus...

Chad: I was asking you a question as well. It's okay.

Heather Bussing: Oh man.

Joel: I think both are right.

Heather Bussing: I agree.

Chad: I think they have to work together. But the problem I think we've had, if we haven't had enough government intervention, which everybody hates to hear, but we in our history have not seen parity. So therefore we have to do something different.

Joel: And look, we give Indeed a hard time almost every week. But we are both on the same page in saying...

Chad: Exactly, yes.

Joel: Requiring companies in their job description to put a pay range. Or if you don't, we're gonna put one in for you.

Chad: So, question, do you think Indeed would've done that without all of the states making those...

Heather Bussing: Of course not.

Chad: Okay. Okay. So therefore, government, that was not a market pressure. That was a governmental pressure.

Heather Bussing: Yeah. No. And both things are correct. But the labor shortage is also gonna make movement in DE&I because we're gonna have to hire everyone.

Chad: Exactly.

Heather Bussing: And we're gonna have to learn to work together. And it's not gonna be optional anymore.

Joel: And that's a demographic issue.

Heather Bussing: Yes.

Joel: From your standpoint. Yes. Okay.

Heather Bussing: Yes. And then things get real because it's not about convincing people about things that they don't think matter. It's about, look, do you wanna be in business or not?

Joel: Maybe getting in the weeds. You work with a lot of companies, they come to you for questions and you have answers. What are they asking you? Is it basic stuff? Is it really detailed? What are your customers and clients asking about on this issue?

Heather Bussing: Well, they're... I still get questions every...

Joel: How do I not get sued? Is that...

Chad: Or do I have to?

Joel: How do I not have to hire Bussing Law?


Heather Bussing: Well, my clients don't hire me to do litigation 'cause I quit doing litigation. I fulfilled my lifetime quota of fighting with people a few years ago.

Chad: So you're more preventative maintenance.

Heather Bussing: I am preventative maintenance.

Chad: Ah, I like that.

Heather Bussing: And getting in there before there's trouble. And wage hour stuff is always big. And I tell people outsource your payroll to a reputable company that's gonna be here 10 years from now that understands the laws of all 50 states. COVID is still a big issue for employers and employment lawyers because the rules keep changing. And sick leave, states are changing new laws in response to all of the ones that expired. And so everyone's trying to sort that out, including me.

Joel: Unions are having a moment.

Heather Bussing: Yes.

Joel: Talk about that because I think that is, you know, ingrained a lot in this equity issue and getting paid what I'm worth and inflation and COVID. Give us your take on the rise of the unions. And we're here in Vegas where there's a threat of...

Chad: It's a good point.

Joel: The service industry striking.

Heather Bussing: Yeah. Well, it's the power dynamics, right? Because the employers hold the purse and the only way that at will employment, right? We don't like your classes, you're fired. And so the only way that employees can have leverage in the conversation is to join together. And then we have a framework for that in place under the National Labor Relations Act.

Joel: So you're not surprised to see this rise in unions whatsoever?

Heather Bussing: I am not surprised. I am not surprised.

Chad: Are you surprised that it took so long? Because the unions were busted up back in the '80s and then they just started to atrophy. And then the pitchforks are now starting to come out. This is what Joel and I have been talking about for years. The pitchforks are gonna come out and now they're coming out in the form of the union. Are you surprised that it took so long?

Heather Bussing: Yes, but I'll tell you what happened, COVID.

Chad: As an accelerator for many things.

Heather Bussing: When you decide that you are not willing to die for your employer, it turns out there's a lot

of other stuff you don't wanna do either.


Heather Bussing: Right?

Joel: That's a great perspective.

Chad: Well, yes.

Heather Bussing: And we learned that things can change on a dime and that all of the things that people were asking for suddenly became possible.

Chad: Yes.

Heather Bussing: Gosh.

Chad: Yes.

Heather Bussing: And so we don't believe that you can't do it anymore. That's what employees are thinking.

Joel: Heather, we're at a show, maybe the biggest show of the year in terms of technology and TA and HR. Any takeaways so far from the show or things that you're anxious to see, any vendors that you're interested in talking to?

Heather Bussing: I'm excited to just see what's going on and what people are working on. Generative AI is hot, but we'll see how that goes out. I am very skeptical.

Chad: Yes.

Heather Bussing: But I'm interested in that and I'm interested in figuring out how people are understanding the work.

Joel: Everyone of a certain age and I'm looking at everyone at the table, is a little skeptical about all of this stuff. Heather, thanks for joining us. For our listeners who want to know more about you or connect, where would you send them?

Heather Bussing: Connect with me on LinkedIn, Heather Bussing.

Joel: Easy, easy.

Chad: Too easy. I love it.

Joel: Another one in the can, Chad. We out.

Chad: We out.

Outro: Wow, look at you. You made it through an entire episode of the Chad and Cheese podcast. Or maybe you cheated and fast-forwarded till to the end. Either way, there's no doubt you wish you had that time back. Valuable time you could have used to buy a nutritious meal at Taco Bell. Enjoy a pour of your favorite whiskey. Or just watch big booty Latinas and bug fights on TikTok. No, you hung out with these two chuggle heads instead. Now go take a shower and wash off all the guilt. But save some soap, because you'll be back. Like an awful train wreck, you can't look away. And like Chad's favorite Western, you can't quit them either. We out.


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