Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Restores American Workers’ Rights to Challenge

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) praised the passage of long-awaited legislation that will work to close the gender pay gap in America. The bill reverses a Supreme Court decision that has kept women from pursuing pay discrimination claims. The bill now heads to President Barack Obama and will likely be the first major piece of legislation he signs into law.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act would clarify that each discriminatory paycheck or compensation constitutes a violation of the Civil Rights Act. As long as workers file their charges within 180 days of a discriminatory paycheck, their charges would be considered timely. This was the law prior to the Supreme Court’s May 2007 decision.

“Gender equity and equal pay are fundamental rights,” said Rep. Markey. “This legislation firmly establishes that individuals should not be paid less because of gender. The Supreme Court rolled back the clock on this issue of basic fairness and civil rights. However, the American people, President Obama and the Congress are standing together today determined to continue the fight for equality for all.”

Lilly Ledbetter worked for nearly 20 years at a Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. She sued the company after learning that she was paid less then her male counterparts at the facility, despite having more experience than several of them. A jury found that her employer had unlawfully discriminated against her on the basis of gender.
However, the Supreme Court said that Ledbetter 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.  
While Ledbetter filed her charge within 180 days of receiving discriminatory pay, the court ruled that, since Ledbetter did not raise a claim within 180 days of the employer’s decision to pay her less, she could not receive any relief.  Under this Supreme Court decision, employees in Ledbetter’s position would be forced to live with discriminatory paychecks for the rest of their careers.
Despite claims from critics, the Congressional Budget Office estimated in 2007 that since the bill would essentially return the law to where it stood before the Supreme Court ruling, the legislation will not lead to an onslaught of costly new litigation. Click here for the CBO estimate.

“Lily Ledbetter worked her entire career in pursuit of the American dream only to have her just rewards denied,” said Rep. Markey. “Today’s decision will right a serious wrong and set an important precedent for future generations of hard-working Americans. The new Congress is committed to rebuilding our economy and strengthening our middle class. This legislation is a critical start.”

#  #  #


January 27, 2009

CONTACT: Daniel Reilly (202) 225-2836