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House Clears Pay Equity Legislation

On January 9, the House passed, 247-171, H.R. 11, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and H.R. 12, the Paycheck Fairness Act, 256-163. The vote on the Paycheck Fairness Act followed a motion to recommit by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) to cap attorneys’ fees under the bill; the motion failed 178-240.

Sponsored by Rep. George Miller (D-CA), H.R. 11 is identical to the bill that passed the House on July 30, 2007 (see The Source, 8/3/07). The same is true for H.R. 12, sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), which the House approved last year (see The Source, 8/1/08). The

bills are expected to be combined into a single bill for the Senate’s consideration. For additional coverage of related hearings and mark-ups, please see The Source, 9/26/08, 7/25/08, 1/25/08, 6/15/07, 7/16/07, 6/29/07, and 4/27/07.
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) said, “As the Democratic co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Women’s Issues, I’m particularly concerned about how the downturn in the economy will impact women and their families. Today in the United States of America, women earn just 78 cents for every dollar earned by a man. African American women earn just 63 cents on the dollar…Latinas earn only 53 cents for each dollar males earn, and single women earn just 56 cents for every dollar earned by a man. These alarming statistics, coupled with the fact that women are losing their jobs at a frightening rate, makes passing the Equal Pay Act even more important, and I thank Rosa DeLauro for her leadership on that legislation.

She continued, “But the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act provides adequate legal protections for wage discrimination. Lilly Ledbetter worked for 19 years at a Goodyear Tire plant and was routinely paid less than her male colleagues, including in her last paycheck. Unfortunately, the United States Supreme Court, in essence, said to employers, if you can just keep your underpaid women in the dark for 180 days, then you’re free to deny her fair pay and leave her to attempt to meet her family’s expenses on a salary that denies her rightful payment. My colleagues, in this 21st century, it’s time we made fairness the law of the land.”

Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA) said, “Madam Speaker, I rise in opposition to this ill-considered and overreaching legislation. Proponents of this bill claim it simply reverses a May 29, 2007, U.S. Supreme Court decision and clarifies congressional opposition to wage discrimination. In reality, however, this bill will set into motion a series of unintended consequences that will ripple through the economy and plague workers, small businesses, and the judicial system with a vast new legal minefield…Every member of this chamber stands in strong opposition to the unfair treatment of any worker. At the same time, I believe we must stand firmly behind a process that ensures justice for all parties, and that includes protecting against the potential for abuse and over-litigation. It is my commitment to those principles that requires me to vote no on this bill today.”

He added, “The statute of limitations was clearly established in the law to encourage the timely filing of claims which helps prevent the filing of stale claims and protects against the abuse of the legal system. Consider these “worst case” scenarios, for example: Without a statute of limitations in place, an employee could sue for pay discrimination resulting from an alleged discriminatory act that might have occurred, 5, 10, 20, or even 30 years earlier. And without a statute of limitations in place, it is entirely conceivable that a worker or retiree could seek damages against a company run by employees and executives that had nothing to do with the initial act of the alleged discrimination that occurred dozens of years ago.”

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