Los Angeles Times Buys the Ledbetter Spin

By July 31, 2007General

PR kudos to the spinmeisters who talked to the L.A. Times reporter of today’s story on the Ledbetter Pay Act. While the story includes a variety of viewpoints, the reporter framed the entire article around the advocates’ argument, that H.R. 2831 overrides a Supreme Court ruling.

WASHINGTON — House lawmakers were expected to vote today to override a Supreme Court decision that makes it more difficult for workers to sue their employers for past discrimination about pay.

No, no and NO. The Supreme Court’s May 2007 Ledbetter ruling upheld statute, that is, the policy crafted by Congress over decades. It confirmed prior Court decisions regarding the time for filing a pay discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

H.R. 2831 doesn’t override the Court, it changes the underlying law — dramatically.

The anti-discrimination laws clearly state, and the U.S. Supreme Court has consistently ruled, that when an individual experiences an act of pay discrimination, a new charge filing period begins and he or she must file an administrative charge with the EEOC within that period. Issuing a paycheck is the result of discrimination, not a separate act of discrimination. The bill would change that basic principle of employment law.

But H.R. 2831 doesn’t stop there. The bill’s provisions also apply to anyone “affected by” unlawful compensation discrimination. Got that? It doesn’t even have to be the aggrieved employee, or even someone who worked for the employer. H.R. 2831 goes far beyond pay discrimination — which the Court’s decision was about — also applying to any alleged discriminatory employment practice, including vacation benefits, health care costs, pensions, life insurance, etc.

No matter how much proponents talk about “fairness,” this bill is a radical restructuring of employment law. And how, precisely, is making employers subject to unending uncertainty and threats of litigation “fair?”

Join the discussion One Comment

  • Sidney says:

    “Issuing a paycheck is the result of discrimination, not a separate act of discrimination.”

    So as long as you can keep the discrimination hidden for the filing period, you can get away with it, no matter how long the resulting discriminatory payments go on…. Doesn’t seem quite fair to me.

    If an employee set up an embezzlement scheme that paid her an extra $100 every pay period, I’m sure each payment would be considered a new crime, and trigger a new statute of limitations.

    The discriminating company is basically stealing from the employee again and again every pay period.

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