ACLU Calls Swift Passage of Pay Equity Bills Strong Steps to Help Protect Wages

January 7, 2009 12:00 am

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WASHINGTON – Ahead of the numerous economic indicators set to be released this week – including December payroll figures – all of which are expected to show a worsening US economy, the ACLU sent a letter to Congress urging speedy passage of a pay equity legislative package that gives employees tools to fight unfair wage disparities. This week, the House of Representatives is expected to vote on H.R. 11, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, and H.R. 12, the Paycheck Fairness Act.

“Congress needs to send a message that wage discrimination is not acceptable,” said Caroline Fredrickson, director of the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. “This means passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act without delay. By passing this pay equity package swiftly, Congress will take a strong step toward stimulating the economy.”

Together, these bills will help to create a climate where wage discrimination is not tolerated and give the new administration enforcement tools to make progress on pay equity. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act restores rights to address pay discrimination taken away by the Supreme Court in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. In 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that Ms. Ledbetter, a 19-year employee of Goodyear, did not have a valid claim of wage discrimination because she had not filed her complaint within 180 days of her employer’s initial discriminatory pay decision – even though her employer kept the information secret for years. The act clarifies that ongoing wage discrimination represents a continuing violation by the employer.

Another important tool to protect wages has been the Equal Pay Act. However, since becoming law over four decades ago, loopholes and weak remedies have made the Equal Pay Act less effective. The Paycheck Fairness Act would amend the Equal Pay Act to address the reality that full-time working women receive only 78 cents for every dollar men earn, according to the US Census. More specifically, this legislation allows women to receive the same pay for equal work and the same remedies for wage discrimination as are available for race and national origin discrimination.

“In these tough economic times, unjust employers should not be immunized from wrongdoing when they deny employees their rightful wages or profit from years of discrimination – as long as they keep the discrimination secret for a few months,” said Deborah J. Vagins, ACLU legislative counsel. “Pay equity has to be a priority for Congress. Part of promoting economic security is ensuring that employees bring home every dollar that they rightfully earn.”

To read the ACLU’s letter to Congress, go to:

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