President Obama has signed his first bill, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.
The bill, S. 181, reverses a Supreme Court decision that limited workers’ ability to sue employers in connection with allegations of wage discrimination.
Members of the Senate voted 61-36 to pass the bill, and members of the House passed it by a vote of 250-177.
The president danced at an inaugural ball with Lily Ledbetter, the named plaintiff in the 2007 Supreme Court decision. The court held that Ledbetter was not entitled to sue over allegations of wage discrimination.
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The court found that Ledbetter was ineligible to sue because she had not filed her claim within 180 days of “the alleged unlawful employment practice.”
President Obama made opposition to the Supreme Court decision a key part of his presidential election campaign.
Wage discrimination is “by no means a women’s issue, it is a family issue,” Obama said at the signing. “Signing this bill today is to send a clear message that making our economy work means making sure it works for everybody.”
Under the provisions of the new act, workers have at least 180 days after they get what they believe to be discriminatory paychecks to bring charges.
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, act drafters say.
Each discriminatory paycheck would, in effect, restart the clock for filing charges, the drafters say.