On January 29, 2009, President Barack Obama signed his first bill into law–The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act. It extends the rights of women and other minority groups, to sue for equal pay for equal work.
Lilly Ledbetter was paid less than her male co-workers for almost two decades, but she didn’t realize it until it became too late to bring it to court. The bill is a response to a controversial 2007 Supreme Court ruling that severely restricted the statute of limitations on equal pay litigation. The original Court ruling gave a plaintiffs only 180 days within the initial incident of discrimination to file a complaint. Pretty ridiculous when it’s not always easy to find out what all your co-workers are paid! The new bill extends the statute of limitations for 180 days after the last discriminatory pay check.
When the President signed the bill, he talked about the impact of unequal pay on employees, families and communities. As Steve Hilderbrand wrote in the Huffington Post:
“If anyone ever asks you, ‘Does it make a difference which political party controls Congress,’ I hope this is one clear and important example of what a difference it will make in the lives of millions of Americans who have suffered from discrimination in the workplace, that under Democratic control, equal pay for equal work will now be the law of the land.”