Ledbetter Act: It Wasn’t Meant to Pass

The Wall Street Journal reaches the conclusion last week’s Senate consideration of the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which would have lifted all statutes of limitation on employment discrimination suits, was intended more as a political statement and loyalty pledge than an earnest legislative proposal. From “The Foul Play Act“:

Ms. Ledbetter took the novel view that decisions made decades ago by her now-deceased former boss affected her pay all the way up to her retirement, so each paycheck was a new discriminatory act. On this theory, there would be no statute of limitations at all. Cases could be brought long after relevant evidence and witnesses had passed from the scene. In practice, every such suit would become a new trial lawyer pay day, as employers settled cases they would find impossible to defend.

And in The Washington Post, a letter to the editor from David A. Drachsler, vice chairman of the Virginia Council on Human Rights.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which you support, would permit an employee to file a pay discrimination lawsuit years after the pay decision was made, even if the employee was aware of that decision. Indeed, in Lilly Ledbetter’s case, her lower pay, compared with that of men doing similar work, was caused by low performance evaluations of which she was aware years before she filed her charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

A simple solution would be to amend Title VII to make the statute of limitations run from the date the employee discovered, or with due diligence should have discovered, the discrimination that caused the pay disparity.

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