Will Congress give workers more time to file discrimination claims? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily
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Will Congress give workers more time to file discrimination claims?

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in Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

Used in HRS Weekly -- Aug. 7, 2007 issue. And posted on home page, Aug. 6-14
Employers dodged a bullet last May when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling clarified that employees who claim illegal pay discrimination must file their complaints within 180 days after the alleged discriminatory offense.

Now, some in Congress are putting employers back in their crosshairs by pushing legislation to reverse that ruling.

The House voted 225-199 last week to make an important pro-employee change in the way the 180-day statute of limitations is calculated. The bill would make clear that each new lowered paycheck would count as another “discriminatory act.” That would provide aggrieved employees with a fresh 180 days to file a discrimination complaint.

In contrast, the Supreme Court ruling said the discriminatory act occurs when the organization originally sets the person’s salary, which is beyond 180 days for most employees. (Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.)

The so-called Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (based on the name of the woman who brought the original lawsuit) would allow employees who could prove discrimination to collect two years’ worth of back pay. It would have the side effect of increasing the amount of time employers must preserve pay records and performance evaluations.

Outlook: This is where it ends

Fortunately for employers, this legislation won’t likely win final passage. Reason: The bill, favored almost solely by Democrats, faces tougher hurdles in the Senate.

Plus, even if the Senate does give the nod, President Bush has vowed to veto the measure. He opposes the bill because if the claim-filing time limits are expanded, “evidence often will have been lost, memories will have faded, and witnesses will have moved on.”

The White House also claims the bill “far exceeds the stated purpose of undoing the Court’s decision” because it allows employees to bring charges based on “any ‘other practice’ that remotely affects an individual’s wages, benefits, or other compensation in the future.”

The President also claims the current statute of limitations has not “caused any systemic prejudice to the interest of employees.” The new bill, the President alleges, will “exacerbate the existing heavy burden on the courts.”

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