Peter Lareau On The Affect Of The Lilly (Lily) Ledbetter Fair Pay Act On Pay Discrimination Claims

Peter Lareau On The Affect Of The Lilly (Lily) Ledbetter Fair Pay Act On Pay Discrimination Claims

On Jan. 22, 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly (Lily) Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 (LLFPA). Reflecting the significance of the legislation and, perhaps, the economic turmoil of the time in which it emerged, the LLFPA has already spawned more than 60 reported cases. In this commentary, N. Peter Lareau examines the points on which the courts appear to be in agreement and the issues that require further refinement. He writes:
“In Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., the Supreme Court addressed an issue that had plagued it in the past — whether and in what circumstances a Title VII plaintiff may state a claim for relief based on present day harm suffered as the result of the lingering effects of discriminatory acts that occurred outside of Title VII's limitations period. The Court held that a plaintiff who alleges that she is paid less today than her male colleagues solely because, during an earlier period of time (outside of Title VII's limitations period), she was denied appropriate salary increases on account of her sex, does not state a claim cognizable under Title VII. More particularly, the Court held that each paycheck a plaintiff receives reflecting compensation that the plaintiff asserts is less than it would be but for past discrimination does not constitute an actionable wrong. . . .
“In a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Alito, the Court held that Ledbetter's claims failed because the applicable limitations period had run by the time she submitted her questionnaire to the EEOC with respect to the specific instances of discriminatory conduct of which Ledbetter complained — retaliatory evaluations in the early 1980s and mid-1990s by a single supervisor whose sexual advances Ledbetter had spurned.

“The law signed by President Obama on Jan. 22, 2009, reversed the court's decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., expressly stating:

“’The Supreme Court in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007), significantly impairs statutory protections against discrimination in compensation that Congress established and that have been bedrock principles of American law for decades. The Ledbetter decision undermines those statutory protections by unduly restricting the time period in which victims of discrimination can challenge and recover for discriminatory compensation decisions or other practices, contrary to the intent of Congress.’”

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