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August 01, 2007
House Approves 'Fair Pay' Legislation

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted 225-199 in favor of legislation that would amend federal law to give workers more time to file lawsuits alleging pay discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Only two Republicans joined Democrats in approving the legislation.

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In response to a May 2007 Supreme Court ruling, Democrats in Congress introduced the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007 (H.R. 2831), which would specify that the statute of limitations under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 runs from the date of each paycheck that is affected by a discriminatory decision.

Specifically, the legislation would amend federal law to state that pay discrimination occurs:

"When a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice is adopted, when an individual becomes subject to a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice, or when an individual is affected by application of a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice, including each time wages, benefits, or other compensation is paid."

In general, an individual wishing to bring a discrimination lawsuit must first file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission within 180 days "after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred."

In May, the Supreme Court ruled on a case challenging whether the clock on that 180 days restarts each time an employee receives a paycheck that reflects past discrimination. The court ruled 5-4 that it didn't, saying the deadline for workers to file pay-bias complaints is 180 days from the date the decision on their pay is made and communicated to them.

President Bush opposes Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007, saying he would veto the legislation if Congress passes it.

"H.R. 2831 would allow employees to bring a claim of pay or other employment-related discrimination years or even decades after the alleged discrimination occurred," the White House said in a policy statement. "The effective elimination of any statute of limitations in this area would be contrary to the centuries-old notion of a limitations period for all lawsuits. Meaningful statutes of limitations in these sorts of fact-intensive cases are crucial to the fair administration of justice."

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