The American Benefits Council says wage discrimination legislation that passed in the House today could expose pension plan sponsors to the threat of suits over benefits paid years earlier.
House members today voted 247-171 to pass H.R. 11, a bill that would reverse a 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision that severely limited workers’ ability to sue their employers in connection with allegations of wage discrimination.
H.R. 11 would restore the law that was in place before the court handed down its decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear.
House members then voted 256-163 to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, H. R. 12, which would prohibit sex discrimination in employee compensation.
Observers expect the Senate to take up the bills soon.
President-elect Barack Obama has supported the passage of legislation that would reverse the effects of the Ledbetter ruling.
In 2008, an earlier effort to reverse Ledbetter failed when supporters mustered only 57 of the 60 Senate votes needed to shut off a filibuster.
Current law already prohibits employers from paying men and women unequal amounts for equal work.
In Ledbetter, the Supreme Court held that an employee would be barred forever from challenging alleged paycheck discrimination unless the employee filed a claim within 180 days after the discrimination occurred.
Under the new paycheck legislation, every paycheck or other compensation resulting, in whole or in part, from an earlier discriminatory pay decision or other practice would constitute a violation of Title VII, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, and religion, supporters say.
Each discriminatory paycheck would, in effect, restart the clock for filing a claim.
“As long as workers file their charges within 180 days (or 300 days in some jurisdictions) of a discriminatory paycheck, their charges will be considered timely,” supporters write in a summary of the legislation.