Ledbetter Pay Equity Bill Signed into Law

January 29, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - President Barack Obama on Thursday signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act, which allows workers up to six months after discovering pay practices they believe are discriminatory to sue their employers.

The legislation, closely watched by workplace benefits trade groups representing employers, effectively turns around the May 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter vs. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co  (See  High Court Rejects Years-Old Discrimination Claims ).

The high court   threw out a lower court 2003 decision in Ledbetter’s favor after asserting she should have headed for the courthouse within six months of when Goodyear’s Gadsden, Alabama, plant first paid her less than her peers. The lower court decision awarded Ledbetter $360,000.

The law is retroactive to May 28, 2007, the day before the high court’s decision, according to news reports.

“We are upholding one of this nation’s first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness,” Obama said, before signing the bill, according to news reports. “While this bill bears her name, Lilly knows this story isn’t just about her.   It’s the story of women across this country still earning just 78 cents for every dollar men earn — women of color even less –which means that today, in the year 2009, countless women are still losing thousands of dollars in salary, income and retirement savings over the course of a lifetime.”

The Bush Administration had opposed the bill, claiming it would unnecessarily encourage employee lawsuits, and argued that workers could delay filing their claims in the hope of reaping bigger rewards.

Comments by Obama at the White House signing ceremony are available here .  Legislative background about the bill is available here .

The Supreme Court’s 2007 Ledbetter ruling is available here .