NAACP-Supported Anti Wage Discrimination Legislation Fails to Move Past Key Senate Hurdle

Although a Strong Majority of Senators (56) Supported the Bill, We Fall Short of the 60 Needed to Avoid a Filibuster

The Issue:
On April 23, 2008, the United States Senate voted on whether or not to invoke cloture, and thus end debate, on H.R. 2831, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.  Although a strong majority (56 out of 100) of the Senators present voted for the bill, two thirds of the Senators, or 60 are needed to avoid a filibuster.  Thus, the bill must go back to Committee to be brought up again at a later date when we will hopefully have more success. 

On May 29, 2007, the US Supreme Court handed down a troubling decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., in which the Court held that an action for pay discrimination under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin or sex must be brought within 180 days of the initial discriminatory pay decision.  This means that an individual who is receiving less pay for equal work due to his or her race, ethnic background, gender or age, must file a lawsuit within 180 days of his or her first discriminatory paycheck in order for the suit to be considered by the courts.

This ruling ignores the fact that individuals who are receiving less pay often do not realize that they are being discriminated against in the first three months.  Nor does it take into account the fact that oftentimes an individual is able to determine discrimination only after several months (and sometimes even years).  Most individual’s wages are kept confidential so comparison is often difficult.

To address the errors of the Supreme Court decision (and to reinstitute the original intent of Congress in the 1964 Civil Rights Act), the US House of Representatives passed, on July 31, H.R. 2831, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007 by a bipartisan margin of 225 to 199.  Under this legislation, an individual may file a discrimination suit against an employer (or former employer) within 180 days of the end of his or her employment.