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August 06, 2008
House Approves Equal Pay Legislation

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted 247-78 to approve legislation that Democrats say would enhance enforcement of equal pay requirements.

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The Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 1388) would amend the Equal Pay Act to clarify nonretaliation requirements, increase penalties, and authorize the Department of Labor to seek compensatory damages and punitive damages if the employee demonstrates that the employer acted with malice or reckless indifference.

The legislation would also require that if an employer wants to defend itself against a pay-bias claim by saying that the pay decision was based on a "a bona fide factor other than sex, such as education, training, or experience," the employer would have to prove that its pay practices are job-related and consistent with a business necessity.

The legislation states that the "bona fide defense" wouldn't be available to an employer if the employee demonstrated that an alternative employment practice would serve the same business purpose without producing such a pay differential and that the employer had refused to adopt such alternative practice.

Democrats in the House proposed the legislation after Republicans blocked another piece of equal pay legislation last year. The blocked legislation, which was called the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007, would have amended federal law to give workers more time to file lawsuits alleging pay discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Democrats in Congress introduced the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007 in response to a Supreme Court ruling. The Supreme Court had ruled 5-4 that the deadline for workers to file a pay-bias complaint is 180 days from the date the decision on their pay is made and communicated to them. The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007 would have specified that the statute of limitations runs from the date of each paycheck that is affected by a discriminatory decision.

By contrast, the House-approved Paycheck Fairness Act has no provisions that would address the deadline for filing a pay-bias complaint.

As reported in our previous coverage, the White House has indicated that President Bush would veto the bill should it reach his desk.

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