Dallas, Texas (WiredPRNews.com) On January 29, 2009, President Barack Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 (“Act”). The Act overturns a United States Supreme Court decision that limited the time frame for bringing pay discrimination claims.
Nineteen years into Ledbetter’s employment, she learned that she received significantly less pay than male co-workers who were performing the same work. She sued. The United States Supreme Court ultimately decided her case. It ruled that the time limits for filing a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (a prerequisite to filing a discrimination lawsuit) begin to run when the employer makes a discriminatory decision about an employee’s pay. It found that Ledbetter had not timely filed her charge because the later effects of past discrimination could not be considered.
The Act reverses that decision. It allows an employee to file a charge based on every instance the employee is affected by the application of a discriminatory compensation decision, including each time wages are paid. For example: In 1987, a supervisor decided to pay a female employee less than a male employee based on gender-related reasons. This pay differential was not addressed by subsequent raises. If, in 2010, the employee learns that she earns less than her male co-workers, she may bring a charge of discrimination against the company.