May 2009

Equal pay for equal work

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How the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act will affect you

by Jason C. Kim and Gray I. Mateo-Harris
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The U.S.' long history of pay inequity contributed to the momentous civil rights movement that sparked the enactment of the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Civil Rights Act of 1964. With the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Jan. 29, President Obama solidified the country's commitment to "equal pay for equal work" and forever altered the manner in which pay discrimination claims are litigated. You must now learn to grapple with the powerful text of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act or pay the consequences.

The act expressly amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Age Discrimination in Employment Act and makes its provisions applicable to claims brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Rehabilitation Act of 1973. In doing so, the act extends the statute of limitations for pay discrimination claims, expands the definition of unlawful pay practices and broadens the scope of people permitted to file claims.

On June 2, 2007, the House Committee on Labor and Education introduced the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (H.R. 2831). On July 31, 2007, the bill passed the House and moved to the Senate, where it remained dormant until late April 2008 and ultimately was defeated by a filibuster vote of 56-42. The act was reintroduced as H.R. 11 in the House Jan. 6 and hurriedly passed Jan. 9 by a vote of 247-171. Similarly, the act was reintroduced in the Senate Jan. 8 as S.R. 181 and passed Jan. 22 by a vote of 61-36. The House reaffirmed its support of the bill by clearing it for a second time Jan. 27.

The act applies retroactively to pay discrimination claims pending on or after May 28, 2007, the day before the controversial Supreme Court decision was issued in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Now that the act is law, you should brace yourself for the expected onslaught of costly lawsuits from current and former employees alleging years of...

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