The Blog of the Frances Perkins Center

House passes fair pay act in 4th day of session — the first step in an ambitious labor agenda

In Legislation, Legislation Today on January 9, 2009 at 7:29 pm

H.R. 11, the “Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009” was introduced in response to the Supreme Court’s decision last year, which ruled it illegal for Lily Ledbetter to sue her employer for wage discrimination. The Court said that it had been too long since the discrimination initially occurred. Of course, often workers don’t learn about such discrimination until long after the fact.

The House passed the bill 247-171, and it’s possible that the Senate could take it up this month.

Here’s the language of the bill:

To amend title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and to modify the operation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, to clarify that a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice that is unlawful under such Acts occurs each time compensation is paid pursuant to the discriminatory compensation decision or other practice, to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, and for other purposes.

For more about the Ledbetter case and the legislation, Congressional Quarterly has a good article, House Launches New Labor Agenda with Wage Discrimination Bills.

The House also passed HR 12 by 256-163, which

would require employers seeking to justify unequal pay for male and female workers to prove that such disparities are job-related and required by a business necessity. It would bar retaliation by employers against employees who share salary information with their co-workers, and allow workers to collect both compensatory and punitive damages.

This is a very encouraging start to the 111th session, redressing a flawed ruling by the Supremes and making it harder for employers to discriminate. We look forward to seeing more legislation that carries forward Frances Perkins’s commitment to the rights of workers.

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