Expanding the Grounds for Employment Lawsuits

By January 25, 2008Briefly Legal, Human Resources

Huge day for important committee hearings Thursday in the Senate, so we’re playing catchup. Our correspondent reports there was much off-topic political rhetoric at the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions hearing on S. 1843, the Fair Pay Restoration Act.

The “restoration” part is the proponents’ erroneous claim that the bill will restore the ability of discriminated-against employees to sue, rights supposedly taken away by the Supreme Court’s ruling in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. But the legislation really removes all the limits on suing, even years after the alleged offense, and broadens the potential plaintiffs to include family members — a radical change to settled employment law. (An NAM’s ManuFacts outlines the problems.)

From our man on the ground:

Senators took time to speak about issues that are very important and should receive due consideration from Congress in a thorough debate: equal pay for equal work, equality in the workplace, and sexual harassment. However, as we continue to remind lawmakers, S. 1843 would not address these issues directly, nor would it bring a quick end to any discrimination that may be occurring and prevent future occurrences. Senators also took the time to tout other measures such as the Paycheck Fairness Act, comparable worth; and finally, lifting the damage caps for lawsuits.

Thankfully, Sen. Johnny Isakson tried to keep the focus on the actual legislation. And Eric Dreiband of Akin Gump was the sole balancing witness, explaining how S. 1843 would upend 40 years of civil rights law and stressing how the Ledbetter v. Goodyear decision did not radically alter or change existing protections under civil rights law. Dreiband’s testimony is here.

The National Association of Manufacturers joined other business groups this week in writing the HELP Committee to express opposition and detail the bill’s many failings. You can read the letter here.

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