The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a bill which would have allowed employees who suffer discrimination in their pay checks to sue within six months of the last discriminatory paycheck received, has died in the Senate last evening. Republicans, with the support of President Bush and the Chamber of Commerce, led the effort against the measure, which failed to reach cloture by four votes.
The Act would have overturned a horribly decided 2007 Supreme Court opinion which held that an employee must bring a separate pay discrimination claim within six months of each discriminatory paycheck, even if the employee does not find out about the pay disparity for years. That is exactly what happened to Lilly Ledbetter, an employee of Goodyear who suffered pay disparity unbeknownst to her for many years. When she found out that her similarly-qualified male peers were making tens of thousands of dollars more per year for the same work, she brought an EEOC Charge of Discrimination. A jury trial followed, and Ms. Ledbetter won a substantial verdict. Goodyear appealed, arguing, in essence, that Ms. Ledbetter had the obligation to file a new EEOC Charge every time she got a bad paycheck. The Supreme Court, in an opinion written by New Jersey’s own Justice Samuel Alito, agreed with this twisted logic.
Ms. Ledbetter describes the scene best:
The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act would have addressed this inequity by making the law clear that employees do not have to file multiple claims or preemptive claims if they suspect they are being discriminated against in their rate of pay. This is common sense legislation that must be passed at the next possible opportunity.