Articles Posted in Equal Pay

The Third Circuit Court of Appeals has issued an important decision limiting the scope of the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was passed in 2009 in response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber, Co., Inc.  In short, the Fair Pay Act provides that “in pay discrimination matters,” the statute of limitations is tolled each time an individual is “affected by application of a discriminatory compensation decision.”  In other words, if a female employee is not given the same pay raise as her male colleagues because of her gender, every time she receives a paycheck thereafter serves to toll the statutory period.  Indefinitely. 

Since its passage, the Act has been a source of legitimate concern for employers, who worry that they will be called to explain a decision made many years earlier by a former supervisor under different policies or pay practices, etc.   The Third Circuit’s decision in Noel v. Boeing Co. puts some of those concerns to rest.

Noel claimed that he had not been promoted in September 2003 as a result of unlawful discrimination.  Therefore, he would have had to have brought a charge of discrimination with the EEOC or Pennsylvania Commission within 300 days of the decision.  But Noel waited to file his charge until March 2005, about a year too late, according to the defendant-employer and the trial court, which dismissed Noel’s failure-to-promote claim.  Noel appealed, arguing that the Act tolled the limitations period and saved his claim.

President Barack Obama this morning signed the first bill of his presidency, a piece of legislation known as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act that makes it easier for workers to sue after discovering what they believe to be pay discrimination.  For a bit more detail about the potential ramifications of the new law, see Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Will Become First Pro-Labor Legislation of 2009, Equal Pay Becomes Front Runner as Lilly Ledbetter Act Takes Center Stage, Equal Pay: Fair Pay Restoration Act Voted Down in Senate, More Fodder for the Fair Pay Debate, or A New Day for Employers.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 has passed the Senate and could be on President Obama’s desk within days.  The wage-discrimination statute, Senate Bill 181, reverses a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2007, which narrowly defines the time period during which an employee can file a claim of wage discrimination.  This may be the first piece of legislation signed by the new President.  Obama has been a strong advocate for the legislation.  Lilly Ledbetter, the plaintiff in the lawsuit that inspired the legislation, was invited to the inauguration.

The bill was approved during the first week of the new congressional session, perhaps indicative of the momentum behind the expected pieces of labor legislation.shutterstock_2935217

In Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tires, the case at the center of the legislation’s history, the Court held that the discriminatory act, which starts the clock running on the time period to file a claim, occurs at the time of the discriminatory decision.  In other words, in a failure-to-promote claim, the date of the promotion decision is the date when the clock begins to run.  Ledbetter argued that the clock would begin to run each time a new paycheck was issued because each paycheck represented a new discriminatory act–the unequal payment of wages.  Ledbetter claimed that she did not know that she had been getting paid less than her male counterparts until a note was left in her mailbox at the end of her 19-year career with the company. 

The debate about equal pay is bound to continue in light of pending legislation like the Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act, which was passed by the House on July 21, 2008. Here are the nuts and bolts every employer should know about these important new developments.

The Fair Pay Act

The Fair Pay Act seeks to end wage discrimination against those who work in female-dominated or minority-dominated jobs by establishing equal pay for equivalent work. Under the Fair Pay Act, employers could not pay jobs that are held predominately by women less than jobs held predominately by men if those jobs are equivalent in value to the employer. The bill also protects workers on the basis of race or national origin. The Fair Pay Act makes exceptions for different wage rates based on seniority, merit, or quantity or quality of work.


The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was proposed as a measure to increase the length of time in which employees could file claims for unequal pay based on discrimination. Currently, under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, employees have up to 300 days to file a claim from the date of the discriminatory act. Under the Equal Pay Act, claims of pay discrimination based on gender can be filed up to two years after the discriminatory act.

The Lilly Ledbetter proposal generated signficant debate. Opponents saw the bill as preventing employers from closing the door on equal-pay claims because employees would no longer have a hard and fast deadline for filing claims. Advocates saw the bill as a safeguard to ensure that those who were subject to unequal pay but who had no way of learning of the discrimination would not lose their claims on a technicality.

Senate Republicans killed the bill in a 56-42 vote on Wednesday, April 23. Senator John McCain, who stated that he opposed the bill but favors fair pay for women, was campaigning in New Orleans, so he was not present for the vote. Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton both voted in favor of the bill.

The National Women’s Law Center is promoting Equal Pay Week with Blog for Fair Pay Day today.

Equal Pay Week marks the point in 2008 when the average woman’s wages catch up with what the average man earned in 2007. Women’s earnings are still on average only 77% of men’s. The site has a compilation of blog postings (and a “vlog” posting) about the equal pay issue, and a link for readers to use to urge their senators to vote in favor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. That’s the law designed to reverse the Supreme Court’s ruling that imposed a very short statute of limitations on equal pay claims. The vote may be as soon as next Wednesday, April 23.

Senator Ted Kennedy issued a press statement yesterday voicing his opinion in favor of the Act.

Contact Information