Washington is moving fast on a couple of high-profile employment-related laws that will significantly expand employer liability.

The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was the first bill signed into law by President Obama on January 29, 2009. The Act eliminated previously existing time limits for filing many employment discrimination charges, and will expose employers to open-ended lawsuits by allowing plaintiffs to file discrimination claims long after an alleged violation. It can be read to be broad enough to permit anyone who is “affected” by discrimination to sue, opening employers up to damage claims brought by family members of an employee who claims to be a victim of discrimination. The Act also applies to any alleged discriminatory employment practice that has an effect on “compensation,” which could include almost every element of the terms and conditions of employment, such as promotions, transfers, work assignments, terminations, vacation benefits, health care, pensions, and life insurance. Moreover, the Act will be retroactive, applying to all claims of discrimination in compensation that a re pending on or after May 28, 2007. The application of this Act will have an extremely broad reach.

The Paycheck Fairness Act

On January 9, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives passed its version of the Paycheck Fairness Act and it is now pending in the Senate. The Paycheck Fairness Act would dramatically expand the existing Equal Pay Act by, among other things, providing for unlimited punitive and compensatory damages and limiting employer defenses against claims brought under the Equal Pay Act. It would also amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to prohibit employers from barring most employees from discussing pay with other employees. Finally, the Act would re-impose pay banding and other methods to detect systemic compensation discrimination, re-impose the Equal Employment Opportunity Survey that had previously been used, and give government agencies more power to collect pay data from employers.

If you would like additional information about the Ledbetter or Paycheck Fairness Act, or if you have any other employment-related questions, please contact Meg Vergeront.

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