Monday, February 2, 2009

Obama Signs Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

President Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, expanding workers' rights to sue due to pay discrimination. Ms. Ledbetter found that after a 19-year career as a tire factory supervisor in Alabama, she had been paid less than male colleagues for doing the same work, losing more than $200,000 in salary, plus pension and benefits.

The Supreme Court ruled against Ms. Ledbetter in May 2007, making it more difficult for workers to sue employers. In a monumental injustice, the justices ruled that employees must file a formal suit within 180 days after their pay was initially set. If an worker was unaware of unequal pay during the first six months of employment, she would never be able to file again. Congress overturned the decision, enabling workers to file a pay discrimination suit within six months every time a paycheck is issued.

Before signing, the president said, "Signing this bill today is to send a clear message that making our economy work means making sure it works for everybody, that there are no second-class citizens in our workplaces, and that it's not just unfair and illegal, it's bad for business to pay somebody less because of their gender or their age or their race or their ethnicity, religion or their disability, and that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory or some footnote in a casebook, it's about how our laws affect the daily lives and the daily realities of people, their ability to make a living and to care for their families and achieve their goals."

Ms. Ledbetter will not receive any retroactive pay as a result of the bill, but her testimony in the video above makes her satisfaction clear. Congress wanted to reverse the Supreme Court decision earlier, but they were opposed by the Bush administration, which was relentlessly hostile to the interests of workers.

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