Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009

On January 29, 2009, in a White House signing ceremony, President Barack Obama signed into law the "Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act." The bill, S. 181, was earlier approved in the House by a vote of 250 to 177, and in the Senate by a vote of 61 to 36.

The new law is designed to change the decades-old timeframe for filing employment discrimination claims, now awaits final action in the House which could occur by the end of January.

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act gives employees either 180 or 300 days (depending on the state of residence) of an alleged unlawful practice to file an employment discrimination charge with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission. If enacted into law, Ledbetter bill would have changed the statute of limitations on pay discrimination claims and instituted the "paycheck rule" -- affording an employee the right to bring a discrimination claim within a minimum of 180 days from the receipt of a paycheck (and even a pension check).

After receiving thousands of letters from SHRM members objecting to the Ledbetter bill, the Senate voted not to proceed with its consideration, which effectively killed the bill for the 110th Congress.

SHRM objected to the Ledbetter legislation on three main grounds:

  • The Ledbetter bill would do away with the uniform statute of limitations and allow individuals to bring discrimination claims potentially many years after an alleged act of discrimination. The bill would even allow the receipt of a pension payment to re-start the period for filing a claim, which could be decades after an employee left a company.
  • The Ledbetter bill would have allowed not only an employee, but other individuals who were "affected" by an act of pay discrimination, to file claims. The legislation also allowed family members, including spouses and children, and potentially others to become plaintiffs in discrimination suits over a worker's pay (even after the worker was deceased).
  • The Ledbetter bill would apply to all protected employment classes (age, disability, gender, color, race, religion and national origin).
  • The Ledbetter bill was originally introduced in as a legislative response to the Supreme Court's decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. on May 29, 2007.

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