Excerpted from Tuesday's Miami Herald:
U.S. workers were the losers when the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act recently died in the Senate. The measure would have restored a common-sense deadline allowing employees to sue for pay discrimination whenever they become aware of it. The bill was named for a woman who lost her discrimination claim when the Supreme Court ruled that she had not filed her lawsuit in time. Employees should get equal pay for equal work. No one should get less money because of their gender, race, age, religion or national origin. This is what Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 mandates. Ledbetter worked for a Goodyear plant in Alabama for almost 20 years. She earned $44,724 a year in 1997, less than the lowest paid man at that level. In fact, her pay had been lower than that of men in the same job virtually her entire career. She didn't discover the disparity until she was about to retire. That's not unusual. Most businesses don't post salaries. Companies that are breaking the law generally keep the evidence hidden. The Supreme Court, however, said that employees cannot sue over unfair pay unless they do so within 180 days of the first violation. Its message to employers: You can discriminate as much as you want as long you can get away with it for six months. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who led Senate opponents, said the legislation was "primarily aimed to create a massive amount of new litigation." That argument is absurd. The bill would restore the long-established legal practice and sensible interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The Supreme Court took away the $360,000 in back pay and damages a court had awarded Ledbetter. She got less in pension, Social Security and other benefits. That an employee discovers an ongoing discrimination years after the bias started should be more reason, not less, for seeking redress.