Signing Off On Discrimination

Bush brazenly misinterprets a measure to amend an important anti-discrimination measure in a statement threatening to veto the bill.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA) and 93 co-sponsors introduced the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act last month to restore anti-discrimination protection for workers after the Supreme Court’s May decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. undermined the intent of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The Court ruled that Lilly Ledbetter, a 19-year career employee of Goodyear who was systematically discriminated against, was ineligible for compensation because she had not filed suit within 180 days of the actual decision to discriminate against her. This was a distortion of the intent of Congress when it passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and a contradiction of 33 years of precedent and practice.

In his continued ideological assault on workers’ and civil rights, President Bush has threatened to veto the bipartisan Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act if passed into law. The president’s statement of explanation of his threat brazenly misrepresents the bill.

President Bush said in his statement:

…H.R. 2831 purports to undo the Supreme Court’s decision of May 29, 2007, in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. by permitting pay discrimination claims to be brought within 180 days not of a discriminatory pay decision, which is the rule under current law, but rather within 180 days of receiving any paycheck affected by such a decision, no matter how far in the past the underlying act of discrimination allegedly occurred. As a result, this legislation effectively eliminates any time requirement for filing a claim involving compensation discrimination. Allegations from thirty years ago or more could be resurrected and filed in federal courts.

President Bush’s representation of the bill is wholly misleading. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is intended to close an apparent loophole that, until this recent Supreme Court decision, had never been used in the 33-year history of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The new bill would simply and explicitly state that an employee alleging discrimination may file a grievance within 180 days of the issuance of a paycheck that is impacted in part or in full by a previous decision to discriminate.

A veto of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act would signal support for a broken labor market that is more and more unfriendly to working families, minorities, and particularly women. Wielding the veto pen on this law would be a written endorsement of employment practices that have perpetuated a wage gap whereby a woman earns just 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.

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