By Miriam Raftery
|Congressman Bob Filner (D-San Diego) with Jan Hedlun
“This issue is as basic as it gets,” said Congressman Filner (D-CA), who voted
in favor of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which is now on President Barack
Obama’s desk. ”You should not be paid less because you are a woman. You
should not be treated differently because of the color of your skin or your
religious beliefs. The Supreme Court has tried to roll back the clock on this
issue of basic fairness, but Congress will not stand for it.” San
Diego Congressional representative Susan Davis also voted for the bill, while
Congressman Brian Bilbray, Duncan D. Hunter and Darrell Issa voted against
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.
The Ledbetter decision has already been cited in hundreds of discrimination
cases. Not only have pay discrimination cases been adversely impacted, but
protections guaranteed by the Fair Housing Act, Title IX, and the Eight Amendment
have also been affected.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act would apply to workers who file claims of
discrimination on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, religion,
age, or disability.
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
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
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.
“At a time when too many workers are seeing their jobs and
wages slashed, we’ve got to make sure that all Americans are paid fairly for
their hard work,” said Filner. “The new Congress is committed to rebuilding
our economy and strengthening our middle class. This legislation is a critical
The bill is broadly supported by women’s organizations and labor groups, but
has met opposition from some business groups wary of increased litigation.
Obama has indicated his support for the bill, which is expected to be the
first piece of legislation the new President will sign into law.