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Friday, January 18, 2008

Fair Pay Restoration Act

When Congress returns next week following the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, the Senate will consider legislation that would overturn one of the U.S. Supreme Court’s most damaging decisions of 2007. In Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., the Supreme Court held that a woman employed by Goodyear who was being paid significantly less than her male counterparts had only 180 days from her first discriminatory paycheck to file a lawsuit – despite the fact that she had no way of knowing about the discrimination until nearly sixteen years later.

The Fair Pay Restoration Act (the Senate counterpart to The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which has already passed the House) would overturn Ledbetter by clarifying Congress’s original intent that every unequal paycheck counts as a discriminatory act that supports a lawsuit under Title VII. Urge your senator to support this crucial legislation.

The Senate’s consideration of this important legislation cannot come soon enough. Despite the fact that Ledbetter was decided less than eight months ago, more than 160 state and federal court cases have already cited the decision – with several leading to equally awful consequences.[1] In one case, a man who had served as a public school teacher for 37 years was denied a bonus that would have exponentially increased his pension because he retired one day too soon.[2] In another case, white police officers were denied the ability to challenge a city ordinance that specifically allowed an African-American officer to leave and later return to the police force without losing seniority while some officers lost credit for all of their prior years of service.[3] In yet another case, a man was barred from bringing suit when his employer told him that he would not have the same promotion opportunities as female employees with less education and experience than he.[4]

To repair the damage that Ledbetter has done to these claims, Congress has a lot of work to do and the Fair Pay Restoration Act is a great place to start. Unfortunately for the disabled man not welcome in his own apartment complex;[5] female college athletes denied their scholarships when their athletic programs were cut;[6] and a banker who was fired because he had reached his 50’s[7] - Ledbetter has already done damage, as it surely has to many other Americas who were discouraged from filing lawsuits in the first place. Though the Fair Pay Restoration Act, if signed into law, will protect future claims of discrimination, it will not apply retroactively to Lilly Ledbetter.

In testimony last June before the House Committee on Education and Labor, Lilly Ledbetter urged Congress to pass this important legislation. She noted, "My case is over and it is too bad that the Supreme Court decided the way that it did. I hope, though, that Congress won’t let this happen to anyone else. I would feel that this long fight was worthwhile if, at least at the end of it, I knew that I played a part in getting the law fixed so that it can provide real protection to real people in the real world."

It is crucial that the Senate pass this legislation before any more Americans are harmed by the racial and sex discrimination endorsed by the Supreme Court’s narrow reading of Title VII in Ledbetter. Please join us in the fight to win passage of the Fair Pay Restoration Act.
[1] See, e.g., Mikula v. Allegheny County, No. 06 Civ. 1630, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 70510, at *11 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 24, 2007).
[2] Grant v. Teacher's Ret. Sys., No. 07 Civ. 5534 (GEL), 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 79462 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 25, 2007, revised Oct. 29, 2007).
[3] Groesch v. City of Springfield, No. 04-3162, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 50009 (C.D. Ill. July 11, 2007).
[4] Algie v. Northern Kentucky University, No. 06-23-JGW, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 53347 (E.D. Ky. July 23, 2007).
[5] Garcia v. Brockway, 503 F.3d 1092 (9th Cir. 2007).
[6] Mansourian v. Board of Regents, No. 2-03-02591-FCD-EFB, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 77534 (E.D. Cal. Oct. 18, 2007).
[7]Plant v. Deutsche Bank Secs., Inc., No. 07 Civ. 3498 (AKH), 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55100 (S.D.N.Y. July 23, 2007).

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