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We Need Fair Play on Fair Pay

Deborah J. Vagins,
ACLU Washington Legislative Office
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April 25, 2008

On April 23, 2008, the Senate failed to address important wage discrimination legislation, H.R. 2831, The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007. This bill faced a very tough procedural vote Wednesday night, which fell just shy of the 60 votes needed to move on to a Senate vote on final passage.

Had the Senate voted to address H.R. 2831, Congress could have restored protections for employees subjected to pay discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, and disability. The bill was intended to undo last year’s Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Rubber & Tire Co., in which the court ruled, 5-4, that workers filing suit for pay discrimination must do so within 180 days of their employer’s actual decision to discriminate against them. With its holding, the Supreme Court gave a free pass to employers who can manage to conceal their discriminatory decisions for 180 days.

Recognizing this rollback of civil rights protections, the House passed this crucial legislation in July 2007. Unfortunately, in a move putting politics before people, many members of the Senate blocked this bill from consideration on the merits. In addition, the administration issued a veto threat shortly before the vote.

The battle is not over. The ACLU plans to fight to have this important civil rights measure come before the Senate again this year and, if needed, next year. In a move necessary to bring the bill back up for reconsideration, Majority Leader Harry Reid, who is supportive of the bill, had to switch his vote to “no,” but he and other senators have vowed to bring this vote up again.

Many thanks to those of you who contacted your senators because of our earlier requests. We could not have gotten as far as we did without your help. Find out how your senators voted. If your senator voted the right way, please call them to thank them for their vote and urge them to bring this important bill back to the floor. If your senator did not support the bill, please let them know how disappointed you are that, especially in this time of economic belt-tightening, they did not stand up to help American workers earn fair wages.

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