Big Push for Costly “Comparable Worth” Legislation Coming?

by Hans Bader on April 12, 2012

Lilly Ledbetter, who made false claims about her pay discrimination lawsuit, has returned to the political arena, as you can see at this link. This may set the stage for another Congressional push for passage of the costly and misleadingly-named “Paycheck Fairness Act,” which Ms. Ledbetter backed in the past, or for “comparable worth” legislation, or other trial-lawyer backed legislation that would require pay to be set based on factors other than merit.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which extended the deadline for suing over pay discrimination under one federal law, was enacted in 2009 based partly on false claims that the Supreme Court’s Ledbetter v. Goodyear decision, which barred untimely pay-discrimination claims, had made it impossible to bring equal-pay claims over discrimination unless employees learn of the discrimination quickly. That false perception was cultivated by President Obama himself, who ignored the existence of the legal doctrines of equitable tolling and estoppel, and the existence of another law banning pay discrimination, the Equal Pay Act.  The Equal Pay Act allowed people to sue even if their claims were untimely under the law interpreted in the Supreme Court’s Ledbetter v. Goodyear decision, a different law known as Title VII. In reality, the Supreme Court’s Ledbetter decision prevented women from suing over pay discrimination only if they had incompetent lawyers who were unaware of the Equal Pay Act (admittedly, the Equal Pay Act does provide for different damage awards in some cases than Title VII, so employers were mildly happy about the Ledbetter decision).

Various lawyers, like Paul Mirengoff, an attorney at Akin Gump, have concluded that Ms. Ledbetter deceived Congress and the public about when she became aware of the pay disparities she sued over in her lawsuit, in order to try and make her discrimination claim appear more timely. She clearly has made false claims, claiming she was not aware of what she previously admitted knowing in a sworn deposition. (The liberal former EEOC lawyer David Copus and the moderate Stuart Taylor of the National Journal and Brookings Institution have also cited the existence of this inconvenient deposition testimony, which contradicts claims made by Ms. Ledbetter.) I earlier discussed a false claim made by Ms. Ledbetter that contradicted her deposition testimony at this link.

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