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President Obama Signs Pay Discrimination Legislation
On January 29, President Obama signed his first bill, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act of 2009. The new law effectively overturns the May 2007 Supreme Court ruling that made it tougher for employees to file pay discrimination claims. The law is retroactive to May 28, 2007, and applies to all pay discrimination claims pending on or after that date.
You will recall that in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., the plaintiff, Lilly Ledbetter, worked as a manager in Goodyear’s Gadsen, Alabama, plant from 1979 until 1998. At the time of her retirement, Ledbetter was provided an anonymous note alerting her to the disparity in pay between her and similarly situated male employees. Ledbetter filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and a lawsuit in 1999 under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Eventually, an appellate court concluded that Ledbetter’s pay was the result of long-past decisions that she could not challenge because the decisions were outside of charge-time, or statute of limitations period, provided in Title VII. The Supreme Court affirmed the decision.
The new law amends Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 to provide that the charge-filing periods begin when: (1) a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice is adopted; (2) an individual becomes subject to the decision or practice; (3) an individual is affected by an application of a discriminatory compensation decision or practice (including each time wages, benefits, or other compensation is paid). Consequently, the statute of limitation restarts each time an employee receives a paycheck based on a discriminatory compensation decision. Charges may be filed for up to six months after receipt of any paycheck alleged to be discriminatory.