Breaking News: Senate Approves Pay Discrimination Bill!

January 23, 2009

The Senate approved a bill today, Thursday, January 22, that will make it easier for workers to sue their employers and former employers for pay discrimination. It will likely be the first legislation that President Barack Obama signs into law.
The bill overturns a 2007 Supreme Court decision that many believe resulted in workplace injustice. Ledbetter was the plaintiff in a controversial 2007 Supreme Court case and has become an icon for the fair-pay movement. Ledbetter, a former supervisor at a Goodyear Tire & Rubber plant in Alabama, sued the company for paying her less than her male counterparts for 20 years. The Supreme Court held, 5-4, that Ledbetter should have filed her claim within 180 days of the initial discriminatory decision rather than nearly two decades later. Ledbetter said she did not realize that the pay discrepancy existed until a colleague placed an anonymous note in her mailbox many years later.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which passed the Senate today by a 61-36 vote, would restart the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit each time an employee receives a paycheck that has been reduced because of discrimination. The Ledbetter bill was originally introduced in the previous Congress. It was approved by the House in 2007 but was blocked by a Senate filibuster in 2008.
The Ledbetter bill must now go back to the House of Representatives, where quick approval is expected and probably quicker approval by President Obama. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama made the Ledbetter bill a centerpiece of campaign events designed to highlight women’s issues.
Corporate advocates oppose the bill contending that it undermines the statute of limitations in civil rights law and would foster costly lawsuits at a time when businesses are coping with the recession. Critics argue that the bill would eviscerate the statute of limitations and subject businesses to suits involving people who no longer work for an employer or may even have died.
If you have questions regarding the above, please contact any of the attorneys in the Employment, Benefits & Labor Relations Practice Group of Ruder Ware.

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