Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Gains Traction Quickly

Unequal pay victims are quickly realizing the benefits of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (FPA). The District Court of New Jersey’s recent decision in Gilmore v. Macy’s Retail Holdings is believed to be the first case in the country to recognize the applicability of the Fair Pay Act in unequal pay act cases under Title VII. In that case, the plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on July 7, 2005 on the basis of alleged race discrimination. The court noted the FPA’s retroactive application:

The FPA takes effect as if enacted on May 28, 2008 and applies to all claims of discrimination in compensation under Title VII and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. et seq.) … that are pending on or after that date. The FPA therefore applies to this case. (internal quotations omitted) (emphasis added)

The court further noted that the FPA allows victims of unequal pay to recover back pay for up to 2 years preceding the filing of the charge.

Unequal Pay Victims Gain Protection through the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

Gender discrimination just became more expensive. On January 29, 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. After approximately 19 years as an employee of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, Lilly Ledbetter learned that she earned less than her male colleagues. A jury found Goodyear liable for gender discrimination. In a controversial decision, the United States Supreme Court reversed, ruling that Ms. Ledbetter should have filed her claim within 180 days of the date that Goodyear first paid her less than her male counterparts. (For more information about the Supreme Court’s decision, please visit our blog post entitled, Supreme Court Routs Title VII in 2007: Goodyear Wins Right to Discriminate Based on Gender.)

The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 has three key features. First, the statute not only applies to gender discrimination, but also to unequal pay based on the following types of discrimination: (a) race, color, religion, and national origin under Title VII; (b) age under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA); and (c) handicap discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Second, the statute allows employees who have suffered these types of unequal pay discrimination to recover back pay for up to two years preceding the filing of a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Third, the Act takes effect retroactively as if enacted on May 28, 2007.

The Fair Pay Act is a welcome change for employees who suffer pay discrimination. For more information on this issue please visit the New York Times article entitled,Obama Signs Equal Pay Legislation.