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Kia Franklin

UPDATE—Senate to Consider Equal Pay Bill

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UPDATE ON FAIR PAY ACT: Republican Senators just blocked a cloture vote on the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The cloture vote (56-42) was just 4 votes shy. Here's who voted how.

This would have closed the debate and moved the bill forward for a vote on its passage. That means the debate on this bill continues and we've lost the opportunity to commemorate Equal Pay Day (yesterday, April 22) with passage of a law that restores our rights against discrimination and economic inequality. Why did this cloture motion fail? Why would anyone oppose equal pay for equal work? One answer: this is tortdeform at work, in action, right now. It reflects both misinformation about what the law would do, and a general disregard for the rights at stake here. I write about this in more detail on TortDeform.

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Check out my interview on the Knight Report about the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

What's the Fair Pay Act? It's no big deal, really. It could only reshape the entire legal terrain of employment discrimination and determine whether employers should be rewarded for successfully hiding discriminatory pay from their employees for at least 180 days. Anyway, why should women gripe about employers paying some employees differently for doing the same job just as well as others?
Okay, so there's the issue of pensions, social security, and other benefits that affect the rest of a person's life, even after a person retires; the need to provide for one's family; principles of fairness, equity, and non-discrimination. Whatever, yada yada yada...

Okay, now that we've had our daily dose of sarcasm, let's be clear: today the Senate is considering a tremendously important bill. We would all do well to pay attention to what happens today with the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act would restore the spirit of those laws we often cite to as markers of America's progress, civil rights laws that prohibit employment discrimination.

This includes Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans wtih Disabilities Act, among others. The law would clarify that each time an employer issues a paycheck that undercompensates a person because of the person's race, gender, age, or disability status, the time window the employee has for filing a discrimination claim starts anew.

Seem like a no brainer? Well, it was before last summer, when the Supreme Court ruled in Ledbetter v. Goodyear that an employee has a 180 day time window to file a discrimination claim, beginning with the day they receive their very first discriminatory pay check. This is absurd for a number of reasons, including that many employers prohibit employees from discussing and comparing pay so many employees just wouldn't know that they are receiving unequal pay the first time they receive it. Justice Ginsburg said of the decision, to which she dissented, "This Court does not comprehend, or it is indifferent to the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination."

The Ledbetter Fair Pay act would also restore what for some has become lost faith in our legal rights and in our ability to uphold them in our civil court system.

It's not just about fair pay, an important enough issue standing alone. It's also about our ability as individuals to stand up for our legal rights and to fight against others' who wish to suppress or limit our rights, no matter how powerful or privileged our opponents are. In Mrs. Ledbetter's own words: "I was shocked, because there was so much difference in their pay versus mine... I thought and believed that if I had a problem that I could take it to a court system, whether it be local, or federal, or to the Supreme Court."

Will her tireless efforts advocating for this bill, and the efforts of Senator Kennedy and others help restore our rights to access the civil justice system in this regard? We'll see... after all, it is election year.

To learn more about the bill, visit To learn about what organizations are doing to support the bill, the National Women's Law Center is a good place to start.

Kia Franklin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 11:41 AM, Apr 23, 2008 in Civil Justice | Economic Opportunity | Employment
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