You may recall that in 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court decided
Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., in which it held that victims of pay discrimination have only 180 days
from the date of an initial discriminatory pay practice to file a claim
of discrimination, even if such a practice continues well after the initial
act of discrimination. In Ms. Ledbetter’s case, although she was
paid at a lower rate than her male employees for 20 years, she did not
learn about the pay discrimination until long after it first occurred.
Since her discovery of the pay disparity came about more than 180 days
after the initial discriminatory pay decision, the Court held that her
claims were barred by the 180-day statute of limitations contained in
Title VII. The Court was silent on the Equal Pay Act, which provides women
a separate avenue for claims of disparate pay going back as far as three
years prior to the filing of suit.
In response to what many believe was a manifestly unfair decision, a number
of bills have been introduced in Congress to legislatively overrule the
Supreme Court’s decision. The bill that many thought had the best
chance of being passed, the Fair Pay Restoration Act, would provide that
victims of pay discrimination have 180 days after the last or most recent
discriminatory paycheck in order to file suit.
Unfortunately for employees, the bill stalled in the Senate, as its opponents
prevented it from coming up for a floor vote. So until new legislation
is passed-and by most accounts there is little likelihood of that happening
any time soon-employees must be very vigilant about their employers’
pay practices, and they should seek advice from an experienced employment
attorney if they even suspect they are the victim of pay discrimination.