On January 29, 2009, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 (“Act”), superseding the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc., 550 U.S. 618 (2007). Ledbetter had required a compensation discrimination charge to be filed within 180 days of an employer’s decision setting discriminatory pay (or 300 days in jurisdictions that have a local or state law prohibiting the same form of compensation discrimination) even if the employer was unaware of the discriminatory employment action. [To learn more about the Ledbetter decision, see Andronici, J. and Katz, D., Equal Pay and Beyond, Ms. Magazine (Winter 2009)].

The Act restores the pre-Ledbetter position of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that each paycheck that delivers discriminatory compensation is a separate act of discrimination, actionable under the federal equal employment opportunity statutes, regardless of when the discrimination began. In passing the Act, Congress recognized the “reality of wage discrimination” and restored “bedrock principles of American law.”

Under the Act, an individual subjected to compensation discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, or the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 may file a charge within 180 (or 300) days of any of the following:

  • when a discriminatory compensation decision or other discriminatory practice affecting compensation is adopted;
  • when the individual becomes subject to a discriminatory compensation decision or other discriminatory practice affecting compensation; or
  • when the individual’s compensation is affected by the application of a discriminatory compensation decision or other discriminatory practice, including each time the individual receives compensation that is based in whole or part on such compensation decision or other practice.

The Act has a retroactive effective date of May 28, 2007, and applies to all claims of discriminatory compensation pending on or after that date.