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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights  & The Leadership Conference Education Fund
The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Senate Committee Holds Hearing on Ledbetter Bill

Feature Story by Janel Johnson - 2/6/2008

As the nation suffers from one the highest unemployment rates in recent years, Congress is taking steps to ensure that those who are employed are receiving equal pay.

On January 24, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions heard testimony regarding the Fair Pay Restoration Act, which addresses the 180-day statute of limitations for employees to bring pay discrimination claims against their employers.

Senator Edward Kennedy, D. Mass., said that the legislation "gives workers a realistic opportunity to stop on-going discrimination, and it holds firms accountable for violating the law."

The bill will clarify Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 by stating that "an unlawful practice occurs each time compensation is paid pursuant to a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice, and for other purposes."

The legislation remedies the Supreme Court's 2007 decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire Co.  In the 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that any claims of pay discrimination must be made within 180 days of the initial act of discrimination and that this 180-day period does not renew at the issuance of every discriminatory check. 

Lilly Ledbetter had brought a pay discrimination suit against the Goodyear Tire Co. after working for the company for almost 20 years as one of the few female managers, all the while receiving significantly less pay than her male counterparts.

Lilly Ledbetter was among the witnesses at the Senate hearing last week.  She urged the Senators do as the House had done last year and "pass the bill as well so that our civil rights laws can once again offer effective protection against discrimination." 

The Committee also heard from the women-owned business community, which has shown overwhelming support for the Ledbetter bill, praising it as good for employees as well as for business. "To effectively address the Court's detrimental decision in Ledbetter, the Women's Chamber urges Congress to move quickly to enact a legislative fix for Ledbetter," said Margot Dorfman, CEO of the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce. 

Due to the continued discrimination that many women face in the workplace, Dorfman stated that the Fair Pay Restoration Act is needed "to ensure that effective remedies must be adequate to deter discriminatory conduct."

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