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Democrats Introduce the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

June 22, 2007

From the Education and Labor Committee:

Rep. Miller and Top Democrats Introduce Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
Legislation would remedy recent Supreme Court decision to severely limit workers' ability to bring pay discrimination claims

WASHINGTON–Legislation to ensure that victims of pay discrimination have their day in court was introduced by Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and other top House Democrats today.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act would allow pay discrimination claims to be filed within 180 days of the issuance of a discriminatory paycheck. Most workers are unaware of what their co-workers earn, and many employers even prohibit employees from discussing their pay with each other. That makes it nearly impossible for workers to uncover pay discrimination.

The legislation is named after Lilly Ledbetter, whose pay discrimination claim was denied by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision on May 29. The court said that she had waited too long to sue for pay discrimination, despite the fact that she filed a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as soon as she received an anonymous note alerting her to pay discrimination. The court ruled that since she did not raise a claim with 180 days of the actual decision to discriminate, she could not receive back pay.

“Justice was denied to Ms. Ledbetter and she now has to live the rest of her life with years of pay discrimination. We cannot allow this injustice to continue for other workers,” said Miller, chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee. “The fact is that Ms. Ledbetter was discriminated against with nearly every paycheck she received. The Supreme Court told employers that they could escape responsibility by hiding their decision to discriminate and run out the clock.”

“There is little doubt the spirit of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was violated in this case. Since the Ledbetter decision was announced, I have been working closely with Chairman Miller to produce a legislative remedy aimed at ensuring that victims of discrimination will no longer be denied their legal recourse due to loopholes in existing law. I would like to thank the Chairman for his leadership on this important issue,” said Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD). “This common-sense legislation effectively reverses the Court's decision, restores Congressional intent, and responds to the realities of the workplace, where, as Justice Ginsberg noted, workers do not typically discuss their salaries with their colleagues.”

Ledbetter worked for nearly 20 years at a Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company facility in Alabama. She sued the company after learning that she was the lowest-paid supervisor out of a group of 16 supervisors at the facility, despite having more experience than several of her male counterparts. A jury found that her employer had unlawfully discriminated against her on the basis of sex.

See our previous coverage of the Ledbetter case, including highlights of Ledbetter’s testimony before the Committee:

Lilly Ledbetter:
“The Supreme Court said that this did not count as illegal discrimination, but it sure feels like discrimination when you’re on the receiving end of a smaller paycheck. They said that once 180 days passes after the pay decision is made, the worker is stuck with unequal pay for the rest of her career.”