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Why The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Is Important

On January 29, 2009, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act ("LLFPA") became law.  There was much publicity about it.  Businesses fought it.  Civil rights groups fought for it.  Here's what it means and why it's important.  It all started with a questionable Supreme Court decision. The Supreme Court decision.  In 2007, the United States Supreme Court, in a case called Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., ruled a discriminatory pay claim arose when the discriminatory decision was originally made, not when the employee actually received the pay.  While this may not seem like a big deal, it was actually a devastating ruling for victims of compensation discrimination. What it meant.  The Ledbetter decision meant a company could make a discriminatory decision to pay a female employee less than its male employees and the deadline to file the claim would start running on the day of the decision was made rather than each time the female employee received a paycheck.   So, even though she felt the effects of the discrimination every time she received a paycheck, the company would be off the hook 180 days (or whatever the applicable statute of limitation was) after the original discriminatory decision was made.  Why it was a problem.  Because discriminatory motives are hidden in the heart and mind of the decision-maker, it's not readily apparent to victims of discrimination when they have been the victims of discrimination.  Additionally, because of the short statute of limitations applicable to many civil rights claims (sometimes as short as 180 days), the Ledbetter decision put victims of discrimination in the unenviable position of making a claim against the company they were still working for and risking their job in the process. How the Ledbetter Law solved the problem.  The LLFPA amended federal laws prohibiting discrimination based on age, disability, race, color, national origin, gender, religion and retaliation by clarifying that an unlawful practice occurs every time an employee receives a paycheck resulting from a discriminatory decision, not when the decision was originally made.  This makes sense.  If I decide to punch you in the face weekly beginning on January 1, 2008 and continue to punch you in the face every week after that, I should not be able to hit you with impunity just because you didn't sue me after the first time I hit you.  Effective immediately and applicable to pending cases.  The LLFPA became effective immediately, applies to cases pending on or after May 28, 2007 , and allows a victim who files timely to recover lost wages going back up to two years, if the discriminatory practice had continued for that long.  GSF

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