The Expand the Grounds for Speculative Suits Against Business Act

Jeri G. Kubicki, vice president for human resources policy at the National Association of Manufacturers, has an op-ed today’s Examiner, commenting on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Jeri debunks the claims of supporters that the bill is a narrow corrective to specific discrimination cases, noting the legislation would eliminate statutes of limitation all together and expand the range of people who can sue employers.

From, “The Ledbetter Bill: Stimulating the economy or more lawsuits?

Without the deadline, alleged discrimination might go undetected for many years, subjecting more workers to disparate, unfair and illegal treatment. At the same time, employers will be forced to defend against a potential avalanche of decades-old, potentially frivolous claims.

Enactment of the Ledbetter legislation means companies may soon get complaints based on alleged discriminatory acts made decades ago. Picture this scenario, not so far-fetched: “My shift supervisor in the mid-’80s didn’t like women on the factory floor, and he gave me a bad review. So now I’m filing a complaint in 2009. And I’m suing too.”

What business can defend against that? Memories fade, employees move on, and supervisors retire or die. Companies are bought or merged.

Attorneys know full well that many employers will be reluctant to assume the prohibitive legal costs of fighting these kinds of suits. The real goal will be to force a cash settlement without ever stepping foot in the courtroom.

Another sweeping provision would expand the legal right to file a complaint to anyone potentially “affected” by the discrimination. It’s no longer the individual victim of discrimination who has a claim, it’s anyone! Given the inventiveness of the trial bar, expect lawsuits from family members or a college buddy who will surely blame the unfair treatment of a parent or colleague: “If only they had enough money to front me that loan. It’s the company’s fault, and I’m suing.”

 The column is on page 14 of the Examiner’s Digital Edition.

The Senate voted 72-23 Thursday to invoke cloture on a motion to proceed to consideration of S. 181, the Senate version of the Ledbetter bill. See the debate starting on page S557. 

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) also submitted a substitute amendment to address statutes of limitations more narrowly. Text of the substitute and her floor statement start on Page S588

Expect debate to resume once the Senate reconvenes on Wednesday.

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