Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act renews a worker’s right to sue for wage discrimination within six months of every unfair paycheck, not just the first.  The legislation was spurred by the case of Lily Ledbetter, a lifelong employee of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, who became aware that the company had, for decades, consistently paid her less than her equivalent male colleagues. A jury found her employer guilty of pay discrimination, but the conservative wing of the Supreme Court overturned the case, 5-4, because she hadn’t sued within 180 days of the date of the first discriminatory paycheck. (This would have been impossible, of course, because Ledbetter only became aware of the injustice after it had been happening for decades.) The Act overturns the Court’s decision. 

Cry Wolf Quotes

Petitioner, however, seeks a rule that would effectively eliminate any meaningful period of limitation in certain kinds of discriminatory pay claims, allowing an employee to wait years or even decades to challenge an allegedly discriminatory decision so long as the economic consequences of that decision have continued into the limitations period. Such a rule would be irreconcilable with Congress’ design for the administration of Title VII, and would subject the employers…to damages for entirely innocent decisions that have nonetheless become difficult or impossible to defend solely because of the passage of time….such a rule would impose an unwarranted and excessive burden on employers…

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From the amicus brief filed by Chamber of Commerce and the NFIB Legal Foundation.

By contrast, the dissent’s argument that a discrimination plaintiff can sue based on each paycheck she receives, if her current paycheck was somehow affected by discrimination in the distant past, would allow plaintiffs to sue based on discrimination that occurred decades before, even if the employer is innocent, the alleged discriminators have all died, and the employer no longer has access to any evidence that could vindicate it…That is fundamentally unfair, and at odds with the whole purpose of having a statute of limitations.

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The Competitive Enterprise Institute.

When disagreements and disputes in the workplace fester and potential damage amounts increase, compromise and cooperation become far more difficult. Ms. Ledbetter claimed, however, that she was entitled by a special ‘paycheck rule’ applicable only to claims of alleged pay discrimination, to sleep on her rights for decades before raising her concerns with the EEOC.

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Neal D. Mollen, counsel for Chamber of Commerce, testimony, House Committee on Education and Labor.

This bill would allow an employee to bring a claim against an employer decades after the alleged initial act of discrimination occurred. Trial lawyers, you can be sure, are salivating at this very prospect.

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Representative Howard P. McKeon (R-CA), the senior Republican House Committee on Education and Labor, The New York Times.