Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ledbetter Pay Fairness Bill Falls to Republican Filibuster

Capitoldome How horribly sad:

Senate Republicans on Wednesday blocked a bill that would make it easier for people to sue over pay discrimination, an effort to roll back a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that limited such cases.

Republicans complained that the bill would produce a flood of lawsuits and criticized the chamber’s Democratic leaders for putting off the vote until the party’s two presidential candidates, Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, returned from the campaign trail.

Though several Republicans broke ranks to support the bill, the 56-42 vote was four short of the 60 needed to break the GOP filibuster. Clinton and Obama spent most of the day in Indiana, one of the two states in the next round of Democratic contests, but both returned to the Senate in time for the vote.

This one hurts. To quote the NYT, this filibuster is "a significant civil rights setback."

BTW, both Clinton and Obama voted for the bill, while Sen. John McCain did not vote at all, but it is good to know that he says he'd have voted against it:

"I am all in favor of pay equity for women, but this kind of legislation, as is typical of what's being proposed by my friends on the other side of the aisle, opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems," the expected GOP presidential nominee told reporters. "This is government playing a much, much greater role in the business of a private enterprise system."


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I don't know about lawsuits, but Ledbetter creates an incentive for every employee who does not affirmatively know she is not a victim of pay discrimination to file an EEOC charge every pay period. Failing to do that means that all too quickly her claim will be stale. So, every rational, in the sense of the law & economics folks, employee should act to protect that claim every pay period by filing a claim unless it is clear that no discrimination has occurred.

I think that groups interested in protecting workers' rights should organize a campaign to pick a day, say the payday closest to Labor Day, and have every worker working for an employer who does not provide salary transparency file a pay discrimination claim.

The illogic of Ledbetter demonstrated on a massive scale might cause even a few more Republicans to reconsider their opposition to overruling Ledbetter.

Posted by: Mike Zimmer | Apr 23, 2008 6:41:59 PM

I love ths sheer incoherence of McCain's quote: merely restoring the pre-Ledbetter state of the law on limitations periods (i.e., restoring the "each paycheck is a new violation" standard that had prevailed in most circuits) would "opens us up to lawsuits for all kinds of problems"??? Title VII would remain a law focused on race/sex/religion discrimination, not a law about "all kinds of problems." Honestly, I think McCain just doesn't understand legal issues; he's not a lawyer, and while many non-lawyers are thoughtful enough to grasp legal issues, McCain isn't one of them.

Posted by: Scott Moss | Apr 24, 2008 8:40:09 AM

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