Tomorrow, the House is set to take up the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which would overturn a Supreme Court decision that restricted a woman’s right to bring pay discrimination lawsuits. The House handily passed the bill last year, but Senate conservatives blocked it after President Bush threatened to veto it. On a conference call organized by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi today, Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center, explained that the faulty Supreme Court decision has been stretched to cripple all kinds of anti-discrimination laws:
GREENBERGER: So now we’ve got these judges taking the Ledbetter decision to absurd lengths and saying that the most entrenched and invidious discrimination — now that those who have the courage and the knowledge and the ability, for the first time to combat are out of time. It is an outrageous approach, an undermining of civil rights principles across the board. It’s now causing real misery, as was described not only for women and their families in pay…but for all victims of discrimination.
QUESTION: Hi everyone. Just wanted to ask Marcia real quick, can you elaborate just a bit more on how the Ledbetter decision was — how courts have been able to use the language of the decision and — and extend it to other areas involving discrimination suits that you indicated.
GREENBERGER: Well, the Ledbetter decision basically undermined Title 7, which is a law that prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sex, race, national origin.
So when the Supreme Court said that Lilly Ledbetter filed her claim too late under Title 7, the courts then automatically said that means anybody bringing any type of discrimination case under Title 7, certainly in the area of pay just to start with — whether it’s race or any of these other bases — will be held to the same, unrealistic and unreasonable, standards.
So as an initial matter, we now see race discrimination and other sorts — and national origin discrimination pay claims, et cetera — being thrown out of court — and, again, I want to emphasize, were not filed at all.
Then the courts have said, OK, if that’s what the courts said you had to do under Title 7, which is an employment discrimination law, let’s look at all of their other discrimination laws and maybe people can’t file those either.
Here’s an example of an especially crazy decision: A court in California — in Title 9 case, which is a law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools — said, a student who has just come to a university and sees there was discrimination in an athletics programs, cannot file a complaint (inaudible) discrimination (inaudible) they are suffering for the first time, because that discrimination had been going on for decades.
That’s — and another example — and the same in a housing case, where a court said that on the basis of the Ledbetter decision, people who were facing disability discrimination in housing that had been in effect for a long period of time — when they went to try to rent an apartment and filed right away were out of time because the discrimination had been going on for decades there.
So now we’ve got these judges taking the Ledbetter decision to absurd lengths and saying that the most entrenched and invidious discrimination now, that those who have the courage and the knowledge and the ability, for the first time to combat are out of time. It is an outrageous approach, an undermining of civil rights principles across the board. It’s now causing real misery, as was described not only for women and their families in pay, which is sufficient to fix it right away, but for all victims of discrimination.