U.S. House Passes Measure Lifting Pay Lawsuit Time Limit

July 31, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - The U.S. House of Representatives voted Tuesday along party lines to effectively strip the time limits on when workers can sue for pay discrimination - rolling back a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling validating a 180-day statute of limitations.

The 225-199 vote on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (H.R. 2831) allows employees to sue for pay discrimination within six months of their last affected paychecks, according to a Washington Post story. Senate Democrats are reported to be working on a companion bill.

Backed by numerous business groups who complain the bill will allow too much frivolous pay litigation, the Bush administration has threatened a veto, the Post report said. The legislation “would allow employees to bring a claim of pay or other employment-related discrimination years or even decades after the alleged discrimination occurred,” the White House said, according to the newspaper.

The House bill effectively reverses a May 29 Supreme Court ruling on a split 5-to-4 vote to throw out a suit brought by a former Goodyear employee who said she earned thousands of dollars less than her male counterparts because of discrimination (See  High Court Rejects Years-Old Discrimination Claims ).

Lilly Ledbetter, a supervisor at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s plant in Gadsden, Alabama, sued right before she retired. She ended a 19-year career making $6,500 less than the lowest-paid male supervisor, and claimed earlier decisions by her supervisors kept her from making more.

However, justices rejected her complaint, saying she waited too long to sue. Under the ruling, which justices said was based on congressional legislation, an employee must file a suit within a 180-day deadline of a decision involving pay if the employee thinks it involved race, sex, religion or national origin.

Business groups battled against the House measure. “The anticipated increase in legal and recordkeeping costs could be staggering,” Jay Timmons, the National Association of Manufacturers’ senior vice president for policy and government relations, told the Post.

House Republicans also charged that the measure was actually designed to benefit trial lawyers – a Democratic constituency – by giving them a new forum for thousands of lawsuits.

“Trial lawyers, you can be sure, are salivating at this prospect,” said Representative Howard P. “Buck” McKeon of California, the ranking Republican on the Education and Labor Committee, according to the Post.