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[They] aren't seen as discrimination - they are seen as "policy debates".

Equal pay is a good idea. Equal pay laws are good laws. The Ledbetter act is a bad law and it is all about policy. The Democrats should be ashamed to have voted for it, and the Republicans should be ashamed of how they responded to it. It is an example of a law passed for political grandstanding. It is a bad law put forward only to put the other party on the defensive.

First of all, we need to be clear about what the Ledbetter act does and does not do. It does not provide for equal pay for women. We already have a law for that. It is the aptly name “Equal Pay Act.” All the Lilly Ledbetter act does is provide an unlimited statute of limitations on equal pay law suits.

Lilly Ledbetter got some bad performance reviews at the beginning of her career around 1980. Since all of here raises after that were merit raises she was behind the other male workers from the start. After she retired almost 20 years later she decided to sue over those bad performance reviews. The Equal Pay Act has a statue of limitations of three years, so she sued using the Civil Rights Act and claimed that every pay check reset the Civil Rights Act’s 180 statute of limitations.

The Supreme Court rejected this, though it did add if the company had hidden the pay differential from or deceived Lilly at the very beginning that would be another matter and the pay checks would reset the statute of limitations.

Keep in mind, the discrimination would have occurred in 1980. The company would have to defend itself for an incident that occurred 30 years ago. If Lilly thought those performance reviews were bad, she could have sued in 1980 (there was an Equal Pay Act then), but she didn’t. After that her reviews were better, but she never “caught up” with the other workers because she fell into a whole. If she had never known about the differences in the pay at the start, then she could have sued with the old law, and that would have made sense since the company was lying to her with each check.

But she did know. She wanted it both ways. She wanted to be able to keep working and not rock the boat and she wanted to be able to sue. If the Democrats thought that three years was too short, then extend the statue of limitations on the Equal Pay Act. Instead they amended the Civil Rights Act to say that each pay check resets the statue of limitations. Now there are two acts that employees can sue under so companies have to spend time and resources complying with both and one of them has an open-ended statute of limitations. Generally the crimes we want to have open-ended statutes of limitations are things like murder. What we need is one act with a well-defined statute of limitations.

There were two reasonable courses for the Democrats to take. Extend the statue of limitations on the Equal Pay Act or codify the paycheck extension limit to state that the employee must have used deception about the original discrimination. What the Lilly Ledbetter act did was make every raise an employee has had since he or she started employment reviewable at any time. The Republicans should have pointed that out and said this is a bad law, not because of equal pay, but because of how it is implemented and they should have then offered a better alternative. But everyone who voted against that law should feel proud.

Wally
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