South Carolina Lawyer
SC Lawyer, September 2009, #3.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act: What Employers Need to Know
South Carolina LawyerSeptember 2009The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act: What Employers Need to KnowBy Stephen Dellinger and William K. Brumbach III After making Lilly Ledbetter a frequent topic during campaign speeches and an honored guest at his inauguration, President Obama demonstrated his commitment to expanding the scope of the federal anti-discrimination laws by signing The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in January 2009. Pub. L. No. 111-2, 123 Stat. 5 (2009). It was the first bill that President Obama signed into law. Though the issue that the Act addresses-how strictly courts should enforce the statute of limitations in pay discrimination cases-may appear somewhat arcane, employers must understand and react to this new law that promises to provoke a rash of litigation over pay determinations that employers made long ago. The Act will also render employers liable far into the future for decisions they make today. Thus, employers must take steps to limit their exposure to liability for pay determinations made in the past, and they must implement practices that limit exposure for decisions made today or in the future.
I. Pay Discrimination Law Before and After the Ledbetter Act
The Ledbetter Act changes the way courts administer the statute of limitations applicable to pay discrimination claims based on sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age or disability. The statute of limitations for filing those charges is 300 days in states with state agencies that enforce anti-discrimination laws in conjunction with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In states without such agencies, the statute of limitations is 180 days. After the statute of limitations has run, a person who has suffered discrimination may not file a suit, bring an agency charge or challenge the discrimination in any way. In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a holding in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc., 550 U.S. 618 127 S.Ct 2162 (2007), that imposed a strict application of that statute of limitations. The Ledbetter Act is Congress's response to Ledbetter and a relaxation of the way in which that statute of limitations is applied.
A. The Supreme Court's holding in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire &...