AFL-CIO President John Sweeney:
The new Congress has made a real difference in America’s working women and men’s lives today by passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This critical law will help ensure fairness and equality at the workplace.
Democrats Overturn Barrier to Unequal-Pay Suits
By Amy Goldstein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 28, 2009; A04
President Obama plans to sign into law tomorrow the first legislation of his White House tenure, reversing a recent Supreme Court ruling that had restricted the ability of women and other workers to sue for pay discrimination.
Congress passed the measure yesterday with a lopsided House vote, handing a swift victory to women's and labor advocates on a civil rights expansion that Obama's predecessor had vowed to block.
Coming exactly a week after Obama took office, the quick work of the new Congress -- and the scheduling of the president's first East Room signing ceremony -- are early emblems of an intention to give the government a more liberal tilt. They also signify a rebalancing of power among the government's branches, with newly ascendant Democrats overruling a decision that the Supreme Court made two years ago by a slender majority that included two conservative justices appointed by President George W. Bush.
The legislation, named for a retired supervisor at a tire plant who belatedly discovered that she was paid less than her male counterparts, essentially rewrites the rules that specify the time within which workers may sue under a part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that outlaws discrimination based on gender, race, national origin or religion.
Under the bill, workers may bring a lawsuit for up to six months after they receive any paycheck that they allege is discriminatory. The high court had held that such cases could be brought only within six months of the discrimination's beginning, rejecting a long-held interpretation by lower courts and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that each paycheck represented a fresh act of discrimination.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said yesterday that the president "looks forward to signing the bill" and that the first lady and Lilly Ledbetter, the woman for whom the legislation and the court case are named, would attend.