Fair Pay

The Senate passed a bill today by a vote of 61 to 36 to undo a Supreme Court ruling that made it much harder for people to challenge discrimination in employment, education and housing. "This is a struggle that has gone on for decades. We are making some progress, but we have a long way to go," Senator Bernie Sanders said in a Senate floor speech. "It is imperative that we pass the Ledbetter legislation." Lilly Ledbetter (pictured) was a supervisor at a Goodyear Tire plant in Gadsden, Ala. She d

The Senate passed a bill to undo a Supreme Court ruling that made it much harder for people to challenge discrimination in employment, education and housing. "This is a struggle that has gone on for decades. We are making some progress, but we have a long way to go," Senator Bernie Sanders said in a Senate floor speech. "It is imperative that we pass the Ledbetter legislation." Lilly Ledbetter was a supervisor at a Goodyear Tire plant in Gadsden, Ala. She discovered near the end of an almost 20-year career that she had been paid less than all 16 men, including some with less seniority, at the same management level at the plant. The court ruled that she waited too long to complain.

Ledbetter should have filed her lawsuit within 180 days of the initial decision to pay her less than men in similar jobs, the court held. Justices rejected the argument that each paycheck was a violation of the law.

Since the ruling two years ago, lower courts around the country have cited the case in rejecting lawsuits claiming discrimination based on race, sex, age and disability.

Writing for the 5-to-4 majority in the Ledbetter case, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. said employers deserved protection from "stale claims." In a dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Ledbetter was paid less than men because of "a long series of decisions reflecting Goodyear's pervasive discrimination against women managers in general and Ledbetter in particular." The only female justice invited Congress to correct the court's "cramped interpretation" of the law.

The legislation, which Sanders cosponsored, would make it clear that people have more time to file charges under federal civil rights laws. Former President Bush had threatened to veto the bill. President Barack Obama cosponsored the legislation when he was a senator, and he has indicated he would sign the measure that the House passed a version of on January 9 by a vote of 247 to 171. The House will consider the Senate-passed bill soon, prior to sending it to the president's desk.

To read Sen. Sanders statement for the Congressional Record on the legislation, click here.

To read the Supreme Court decision and Justice Ginsburg's dissent in Ledbetter vs. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., click here.