WASHINGTON , D.C. – On January 27, 2009, Congresswoman Betty Sutton (D-OH) voted in favor of S. 181 the Pay Act of 2009. This legislation reverses the May 2007 in , which made it substantially more difficult for Americans to pursue pay discrimination claims. Congresswoman Sutton was an original co-sponsor of H.R. 11, the underlying House legislation. With ’s strong support, S.181 passed the House by a margin of 250 to 177. The bill now goes to the desk of President Barack Obama, who has indicated he will sign it into law. Congresswoman Sutton released the following statement:
“Today is a wonderful day for women and all workers across America . But while we celebrate the passage of this critical legislation, it is disheartening that in this day and age, workers still face pay discrimination. It has been nearly 45 years since the passage of the and yet pay discrimination still exists. By passing this legislation we are ensuring that workers will be able to take action against companies that discriminate against them.
While this legislation is in honor of Lilly Ledbetter and her brave fight for equal pay, it is also dedicated to all the workers across our country who have been the victims of pay discrimination. With every discriminatory paycheck, workers receive less than they deserve, hurting their families and robbing their pensions.
When the is signed into law, it will overturn the unjust Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber. The Court held that Lilly Ledbetter would have had to have filed a complaint within 180 days of when her employer began years of discrimination against her - even though there was no way that she could have known that she was being discriminated against. This decision placed an unfair burden on workers, essentially protecting companies that discriminated against them.
With this law, a statute of limitations will no longer prevent workers from taking action against discriminatory employers. I am proud to support this important legislation for our country and I look forward to our President, Barack Obama, signing it into law.”
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 of sex.
However, the Supreme Court ruled 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 discriminate against her, 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 careers.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act clarifies that every paycheck or other compensation resulting from an earlier discriminatory pay decision constitutes a violation of the . 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.