Friday, January 23, 2009

The Senate passes the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

On Thursday, the Senate passed S. 181, The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, by a vote of 61-36. Senate Bill 181 represents a concrete step towards ending pay discrimination and providing adequate means of relief to those who have been discriminated against. The bill would restore the "pay-check accrual" interpretation to ensure that employees who can prove pay discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability can seek redress as long as the discrimination continues.

In the precedent-setting Ledbetter case, the Court ruled that the 180-day statute of limitations on filing a pay discrimination claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 begins to run when the original discriminatory decision is made, regardless of whether the discrimination continues beyond the 180-day period. In other words, a complainant would have to file a grievance within 180 days of their very first paycheck that was paid at a discriminatory wage.

Rarely if ever would any new-hire employee of a firm or company have information on the pay and benefits of all of their co-workers. So determining that you were being paid at a lower or discriminatory wage is something that could takes several months or even years to unearth. Yet, the courts ruled in Ledbetter that the statute of limitations for filing a claim of discrimination would expire 180 days after that first paycheck. This bill restores the "Pay-Check Accrual" interpretation, under which the statute of limitations begins to run each time an employee receives a paycheck or other form of compensation reflecting the discrimination.

“We are here today to give the nation a wake-up call! Wage discrimination still exists because there are loopholes in our federal laws. We want to close the loopholes. Change in the federal law books means change in women’s checkbooks. We need to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. It's time for a new American revolution - we need to put on our lipstick, square our shoulders and fight together!" - Senator Barbara Mikulski

“The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act would restore the law that existed in virtually every region of the country prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Ledbetter v. Goodyear and give women back critical tools they need to fight wage discrimination in court. Make no mistake, this vote matters to women, their families, and to all victims of pay discrimination. This is the time to stand up for what is right, for what is just, for what is urgently needed as people struggle to stretch their paychecks now more than ever.” - Marcia Greenberger, founder and co-President of the National Women’s Law Center

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