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NAW News

Paycheck Fairness

- January 2011

On January 29, 2009, the “Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act” became the second piece of legislation to be signed into law by President Obama (PL 111-2). The practical effect of the “Ledbetter Bill is to repeal statutes of limitations which applied to workplace discrimination claims, potentially opening the door to a substantial increase in costly litigation.

The day the House first passed “Ledbetter” it also passed H.R. 12, the “Paycheck Fairness Act” and merged the two into one bill before sending it to the Senate. Federal law already protects workers from gender-based pay discrimination, and if enacted the Paycheck Fairness Act could fundamentally affect the way employers go about making employee compensation decisions. In January 2009, the Senate declined to follow the House’s lead in linking Ledbetter and the Paycheck Fairness Act, and the two were separated thus paving the way for enactment of Ledbetter.

Efforts to bypass the regular order of the Senate to bring the Senate version of the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 182) directly to the floor were not successful. However the Majority Leader, Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), introduced a second Paycheck Fairness measure (S. 3772) and attempted to bring it directly to the Senate floor. The 58 – 41 straight party-line vote on cloture (i.e., to limit debate) on the “motion to proceed” was two votes short of the 60 needed to consider the bill. While the measure may get some attention in the Senate in the new 112th Congress, the same cannot be said of the House of Representatives and its prospects for enactment have been substantially diminished.