The Senate voted 61-36 yesterday to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which is intended to overturn a U.S. Supreme Court decision that limited the time frame for bringing pay discrimination claims. The bill now will have to be reconciled with the House’s version of the bill (H.R. 11), approved on a 247-171 vote Jan. 9, before President Obama can sign it into law.
The bill is named after Lilly Ledbetter, a former supervisor at a Goodyear tire plant in Alabama, who discovered that she had been receiving less pay than her male counterparts who were doing the same work. She discovered this by an anonymous note after working for the company for nearly 20 years. Her subsequent lawsuit was fought all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. In May 2007, the Court ruled in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007), that the time limits for filing a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission 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. Though she lost her lawsuit, Ms. Ledbetter became a champion for equal pay for women.
The bill would reverse the Ledbetter ruling by amending most federal anti-discrimination laws to provide that the charge-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 application of a discriminatory compensation decision or practice.