The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act have reached critical mass in Congress and looks to become law under our next administration. So, what are they and how does this affect you?
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was named after a female employee at Goodyear Tire named, Lilly Ledbetter. She had worked for Goodyear for nearly 18 years when she found out that men at the company, who did the exact same job, were being paid more money for the same work.
Well that doesn’t seem fair?
Lilly didn’t think so either, so after talking with her bosses failed, she filed suit in 1998 alleging discrimination in pay based on gender which was prohibited by the 1964 Civil Rights Act. She alleged that Goodyear, as far back as 1992, was paying her less than men and it was discriminatory.
Goodyear argued that the 1964 Civil Rights Act required a claimant to file their claim within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act and that if it occurred first in 1992, she was too late. Since she filed in 1998, Goodyear asked the court to throw her case out.
Lilly responded with common sense…… How was it possible to file in 1992 when she didn’t find out that her employer was discriminating against her till 1998?
The case wound it’s way up to the highest court of the nation, the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court in 2007, interpreted the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to hold that Lilly had 180 days, whether she knew about the discrimination or not. Our congress took immediate action to correct what they felt was a legislative error in the original act.
Congress felt that each and every time an employer discriminates against an employee by paying them less due to gender, that this was discrimination and a violation of the act. Accordingly, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act will restore the long standing rule that each and every discriminatory paycheck is a violation. This means that employees won’t be punished when their employer hides the discriminatory activity from them for more than 180 days which, under the old rule, would insulate them from any claim.
The Paycheck Fairness Act is another act that will level the playing field between employees and employers. This act will amend the 1963 Equal Pay Act and strengthen current laws prohibiting wage discrimination. It will also require that the federal government become more pro-active in identifying and prohibiting wage discrimination.
Once enacted, the Paycheck Fairness Act will strengthen the 1963 Equal Pay Act in the following manner:
- 1. It will strengthen the remedy provisions of the act to provide greater punishments for those employers that discriminate.
- 2. It will mandate that the EEOC survey available pay data and issue regulations which will increase their ability to discover violations of the law and improve their ability to enforce the laws.
- 3. It will bar employers from retaliating against employees who share wage information with fellow workers. Some companies actually do this! How else will an employee know if they are being discriminated against if they can’t ask a co-worker, “How much you getting for this job?”
- 4. The Act will mandate collection of gender-based information in the Current Employment Statistics survey and will standardize an analysis of systematic wage discrimination which will become an important tool for detecting violations in gender based wage discrimination.
As our economy continues to suffer, we are seeing more and more employers cutting costs at the expense of it’s employees. These two important bills, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the the Paycheck Fairness Act, will give employees the tools they need to identify discrimination when it’s occurring and give them the opportunity to take corrective action against their employers.
Mr. Smith has practiced as a trial attorney since graduating Notre Dame Law School in 1992. He has litigated cases across the country including cases from Ventura County, California to Middlesex County, New Jersey. He practices in both State and Federal courts.
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