Thursday, January 29, 2009

Obama signs fair pay legislation - CNN

President Barack Obama signed a new pay-equity measure into law Thursday, effectively overturning a 2007 Supreme Court decision that made it harder to sue for pay discrimination.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act is the first bill President Obama signed.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act is the first bill President Obama signed

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, named for a former Goodyear Tire employee who sued the company for gender discrimination in 1998, is the first bill signed by Obama.

"It is fitting that with the very first bill I sign ... we are upholding one of this nation's first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness," Obama said at a ceremony in the East Room of the White House.

"If we stay focused, as Lilly did, and keep standing for what's right, as Lilly did, we will close that pay gap and ensure that our daughters have the same rights, the same chances, and the same freedom to pursue their dreams as our sons."

The new law removes a provision requiring employees seeking equal pay to file a complaint within 180 days of receiving their first unfair paycheck.

Under the measure, employees instead have the right to file within 180 days of their most recent paycheck.

Supporters of the Ledbetter Act have argued that, under the old standard, an employer merely needed to hide unfair pay practices for three months before being able to continue them without penalty forever.

Lilly Ledbetter was awarded $360,000 in back pay by a federal judge in Alabama, but the verdict was overturned in a 5-4 Supreme Court ruling in May 2007.

The court said that even though she filed her complaint within 180 days of when she first learned that she was getting paid less than comparable male employees, she had failed to file within 180 days of the first unequal paycheck.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, the Ledbetter Act proved to be a significant point of contention between Obama and Republican nominee Sen. John McCain. Obama heavily emphasized what he called the plan's benefits to working women, while McCain criticized it as a boon for trial lawyers.

Obama later danced with Ledbetter at one of his inaugural balls. She also spoke at the 2008 Democratic National Convention.

"My case is over. I will never receive the pay I deserve," Ledbetter said in that speech. "But there will be a far richer reward if we secure fair pay for our children and grandchildren, so that no one will ever again experience the discrimination that I did."
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