Lilly Ledbetter Gets Her Revenge on Supreme Court

I‘m not sure how the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which zoomed through the Senate last night and is now on its way to the House for reconciliation, will benefit the law’s namesake, but it sure must be sweet to pull one over the head of Supreme Court justices. Five of the latter ruled in 2007 that Ms. Ledbetter’s claim for pay discrimination against Goodyear, though just, was filed beyond the statute of limitations and thus invalid.

Her friends in the Democratic party rushed to her aid with the aforementioned bill. It never got out of the Senate the past two years when the place had more Republicans and the bill faced a sure Bushian swat-back, but the times they are a-changin’. Now the Dems are within one vote of being filibuster proof, and indeed for this bill they invoked cloture (ending any filibuster) by the comfortable margin of 61-36. (Maine’s Olympia Snowe, for one, is a Republican in name only.)

The eponymous law now mandates that the statute of limitations (180 or 300 days, depending) begins anew each time a paycheck is issued or, ambiguously, “when an individual is affected by application of a discriminatory compensation decision.”

Though Ms. Ledbetter is now retired and not receiving paychecks, depending on how a judge might interpret “affected by,” she could well be back in court looking for her lost wages (men in similar positions were paid more, basically). Goodyear should just write a check and end all the publicity that led to this new law in the first place, but we’ll see.

Lilly Ledbetter and her legislation are now poised to enrich trial lawyers throughout the country (they being one of the two biggest donors, along with organized labor, to the Democrats and Barack Obama in the last election), while sending businesses into a funk and whetting the legal appetites of many a female employee. (One blog post I read predicted that this would lead to companies’ hiring only, or mainly, men. Not sure that would cut it legally, though.)

So, to borrow an old Klingon saying, “Revenge is a dish best served with the force of law.”

(Employers, I’ve found a convenient source for mastering all the discrimination and other laws and regulations you face. Get a copy of Personnel Concepts’ Equal Employment Opportunity Compliance Program.)


NOTE: The details in this blog are provided for informational purposes only. All answers are general in nature and do not constitute legal advice. If legal advice or other expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought. The author specifically disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the reliance on or use of this blog.
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