The first bill that President Obama has signed while in office was the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, signed on Thursday, January 29th, and which overturns the 2007 US Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber.
Ledbetter, who travelled with the President on the inauguration train from Philly to DC, and who also spoke at the Democratic National Convention, had sued Goodyear for unequal pay over her 19 years of employment with the tire and rubber company. She submitted evidence that men had been paid more money than she had been paid for doing the same work for the company. She claimed that she had not been aware of the pay discrepancy until shortly before she left the company, and that was why she had to file the lawsuit after the normal statute of limitations had run.
The Supreme Court tossed her case out, agreeing with Goodyear that the statute of limitations started with the first incident of unequal pay, and not with the time that she discovered it.
In a sweeping reform, the bill amends Title VII to allow claims brought within 300 or 180 days (depending on the state in which the plaintiff worked) of receiving any paycheck affected by a discriminatory pay decision, no matter how far in the past the pay decision originally occurred.
The new law does not only apply to equal pay cases, but expands statutes of limitations in the same way for:
“…all claims of discrimination in compensation under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq.), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (29 U.S.C. 621 et seq.), title I and section 503 of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, and sections 501 and 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973…”
The new law is retroactive to the day before the Supreme Court’s decision.
The previous White House had blocked the legislation.