Thursday, January 29, 2009

President Obama signs his first bill-- and it's a big one

The Lily Ledbetter Act is now law. I would like to point out exactly what the law does. From the text:
To amend title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and to modify the operation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, to clarify that a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice that is unlawful under such Acts occurs each time compensation is paid pursuant to the discriminatory compensation decision or other practice, to amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to provide more effective remedies to victims of discrimination in the payment of wages on the basis of sex, and for other purposes.

The point of this change is to get around the bizarre reinterpretation of existing congressional law from the Supreme Court, in which the act of breaking of law via paying unequal wages only occurs the first time the pay is made unequal and that the statute of limitations for pressing charges is 180 days after that. Now the statute of limitations is effectively 180 days after the last time pay is meted out unequally.

There's also the change in how the violations accumulate as well, though. Now each occurrence of paying unequally is a separate violation of the law, implying that beforehand any continuous period of unequal was only one violation. Theoretically, then, does this mean that a company who pays its workers on a biweekly basis could now be guilty of as many as 12 violations of the law for paying a woman less for 6 months (one count for every paycheck)? If so, awesome.

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