There was a lot of fairness on Capitol Hill last week:  the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act both passed the House of Representatives on Friday, January 9, 2009.  For those of you keeping score at home, the Ledbetter Act passed 247-171, and the Paycheck Fairness Act passed 256-163.  Both bills will proceed to the Senate, and they are expected to pass there as well. 

The Ledbetter  Act is named after a losing plaintiff in an oft-criticized Supreme Court case, Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007).  There, the Court held that the time limits for filing a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) start to run when the employer makes a discriminatory decision about the employee’s compensation, not each time the employee receives a paycheck affected by discrimination.  The proposed Act would reverse that ruling by amending Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act to provide that the filing periods—300 days in most states and 180 days in the few states that do not have a fair employment agency—would be triggered whenever an employee is affected by a discriminatory compensation decision or practice.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would increase remedies in Equal Pay Act cases, making available compensatory and punitive damages, authorizing class actions, and mandating training and other outreach efforts by the EEOC and the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs on wage discrimination issues.