I previously wrote about the impact that an Obama Administration would have on employment law. In that article, I mentioned that Obama had vowed to sign legislation that in effect would overturn a recent Supreme Court decision that precluded a female employee from bringing an equal pay claim, since she did not bring the claim within the requisite time limit from the initial decision by the employer to begin allegedly discriminating against her with respect to her pay.
President Obama kept that promise, when he signed his first piece of legislation this week, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 (named for the plaintiff in the case he sought to overturn). The new law declares that discriminatory pay arrangements are to be considered continuing violations that occur each time the employee receives his or her pay. This makes it much easier for plaintiffs to meet the statute of limitations.
In her case against her former employer, Ms. Ledbetter claimed that, some time ago, she was given an unfairly low salary. She alleged that the violation occurred each time she got a paycheck that was lower than what she claimed it should have been, meaning that she could file a claim any time within 180 days of receiving one of the paychecks. Instead, the Court found that the alleged discrimination occurred when she originally was given a lower salary, meaning that her claim had to be filed within 180 days of that original event or was lost forever.
The fact that this was President Obama’s first bill signing means little or nothing from a legal perspective, but it does perhaps signal the new administration’s focus on expanding worker rights. Only time will tell whether or not the next four years will continue in that direction.