Locals hail Ledbetter Act’s passage

The House of Representatives voted 250 to 177 today to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which would clarify that every paycheck or other compensation resulting from an earlier discriminatory pay decision constitutes a Civil Rights Act violation. As long as workers file their charges within 180 days of a discriminatory paycheck, their charges would be considered timely.

This was the law prior to the Supreme Court’s May 2007 Ledbetter v. Goodyear decision, which made it harder for Americans to pursue pay discrimination claims. Former President George W. Bush had threatened to veto the bill, effectively killing it in the Senate last year; the bill now goes to President Barack Obama and will likely be the first major piece of legislation he signs into law.

All Bay Area House members voted for the bill, and some are hailing its passage as a major accomplishment.

From House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez, the bill’s chief sponsor:

“The Supreme Court simply told bad employers that to escape responsibility for pay discrimination, all they need to do is keep it hidden for the first 180 days. But today, thanks to Lilly’s incredible courage and perseverance, Congress will reject this ruling for the millions of Americans suddenly now subject to legal discrimination.”

More reactions after the jump…

From Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont:

“This is the change we promised the nation. Congress and President Obama are acting swiftly to address a major problem in existing gender discrimination laws. Not only is this an important step toward gender equality in the workplace, it is a marvelous example of how quickly our Government will enact real change.”

From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

“The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act helps ensure that all Americans are paid equally and fairly for the work that they do. Although the wage gap between men and women has narrowed since the passage of the Equal Pay Act in 1963, gender-based wage discrimination remains a significant problem for women in the U.S. workforce. It is a shame that women, particularly minority women, earn a fraction of what men earn for the same job.

“For women of color, the gaps are even more severe. African American women earn just 63 cents on the dollar and Hispanic women earn far worse at 52 cents. In my own state of California, black women working full-time, year round earned only 61 percent, and Hispanic women only 42 percent, of the wages of White men.

“This legislation is a positive step towards equity for women in the workplace.”

From House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco:

“Today, with the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Congress has taken a bold step to move away from that parsimonious interpretation by the U.S. Supreme Court. In doing so, it has injected fairness, reason and common sense back into our policy.

“Lilly Ledbetter, with her incredible — her wonderful story, her tremendous courage, and her eloquence in presenting her case, has changed the law in our country for the good of all Americans.

“And I was just on the phone with the President. He called to congratulate us on it and reminded me that not only was he delighted with the passage of the bill and looking forward to signing it … (H)e danced with Lilly Ledbetter at the Neighborhood Inaugural Ball last week.”

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.