• Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act Becomes Law Significantly Easing Time Limitations for Employees to File Wage Discrimination Claims
  • March 5, 2009
  • Law Firm: SmithAmundsen LLC - Chicago Office
  • On January 29, 2009, President Obama signed into law legislation that amends Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.  The law, which overturns a recent Supreme Court opinion, provides that the time period within which an employee can file a charge of discrimination is triggered each time compensation is paid pursuant to a discriminatory compensation practice.

    The issue came to the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007).  In this case, Lilly Ledbetter alleged that she had been the victim of gender discrimination in terms of her pay, which was significantly less than her male counterparts.  However, Ms. Ledbetter did not discover this until she was set to retire nearly 20 years after the discriminatory compensation decision was originally made.  A charge of discrimination must generally be filed within 300 days of the discriminatory decision, or 180 days in a state that does not have a state fair employment agency.  Thus, waiting nearly 20 years, as Ms. Ledbetter did, would be untimely.  Ms. Ledbetter argued that each paycheck she received was a separate discriminatory act and thus her charge was timely.

    The U.S. Supreme Court found otherwise holding that she had to bring her charge within 300 days of the discriminatory compensation decision and each paycheck did not restart her filing period anew.

    The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act overturns that holding and indeed makes each paycheck a separate discriminatory compensation act that is actionable under Title VII, the ADA, the ADEA, and the Rehabilitation Act.  The legislation does limit the time in which an employee can collect back wages, however, to two years.  Thus, even if Ms. Ledbetter were to have brought her case now, she would only be able to recover the pay disparity for the two years preceding the filing of her charge, not the entire 20 years.