President Obama Signs NAACP?Supported Legislation to Correct a Loophole in Pay Discrimination


The Issue:
Earlier today, January 29, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law.  This was the first piece of legislation signed into law by Barack Obama as President.  This bill, which will combat wage discrimination had been a legislative priority for the NAACP since mid-2007, when the US Supreme Court handed down a reckless decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co..  In that decision 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). 

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act addresses the errors of the Supreme Court decision, and reinstitutes the original intent of Congress in the 1964 Civil Rights Act, by mandating that an individual may file a discrimination suit against an employer (or former employer) within 180 days of the end of his or her employment, thereby restoring the ability of victims of pay discrimination to obtain effective remedies.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act will help to remedy the continuing pay gap; for every dollar made by a Caucasian male in the United States today, it is estimated that an African American male makes 79 cents for equal work and a woman makes 77 cents.

At the signing ceremony President Obama said, “there are no second-class citizens in our workplaces; and that it's not just unfair and illegal, it's bad for business to pay somebody less because of their gender or their age or their race or their ethnicity, religion or disability; and that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory, or footnote in a casebook. It's about how our laws affect the daily lives and the daily realities of people: their ability to make a living and care for their families and achieve their goals.”

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