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Statement from ABA President: Congress Must Repair Equal-Pay Law

WASHINGTON, D.C. April 28, 2008 — One of the most solemn promises we make in the American workplace is equal pay for equal work. It is unacceptable that any employee should receive a smaller paycheck, simply because of prejudice based on race, sex or other demographic trait.

Last year, in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., the Supreme Court found a flaw in a U.S. civil rights law and struck down a rule that had aided employees in salary discrimination cases. The _ has never challenged the court’s reasoning, but the ruling created an urgent need for Congress to repair the nation’s equal-pay law.

Regrettably, Congress failed to do so last week.

It is urgent that Congress not let the matter rest here. The Senate should press forward with efforts to achieve an up-or-down vote on the Fair Pay Restoration Act. Simply put, there must be no tolerance in American workplaces for salary discrimination.

The Fair Pay Restoration Act would restore a key provision of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, as it was interpreted and enforced for more than 40 years. Until last year’s ruling, an employee could file for back pay even years after the original inequity, if the discrimination was continuing. This was because each new paycheck was treated as a new discriminatory act.

The court’s ruling narrowed this filing window, saying that employees must file within 180 days of the original discriminatory pay decision. As a practical matter, the decision makes it impossible for most victims of pay discrimination to seek redress because few can discover they are victims of unfair pay in such a short time.

For more than 40 years, it has been the clear intent of Congress, and of society, to make sure that able workers doing the same work are paid equally.

This noble goal should not be swept away by an unrealistic filing deadline. It is time for the Senate to pass the Fair Pay Restoration Act, and for this important measure to be enacted into law.