It frequently happens that when the Connecticut Business and Industry Association (“C.B.I.A.” – and not to be confused with our Connecticut Brain Injury Attorneys “C-B-I-A”) issues a “Government Affairs Report” the content reveals an invidious bias against the ideal of “justice for all.” Today’s missive from the Business Association is no different.
On May 29, 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Ledbetter. v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co., Inc. In Ledbetter, by the barest of majorities, the Court ruled that a woman who discovered that she was receiving unequal pay as compared to her male colleagues could not maintain her claim retroactive to the commencement of the discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Right Act of 1964. The Court held that the statute required that a complaint of discrimination be filed within 180 days of the discriminatory act and therefore the damages related to the earlier period of discrimination could not be addressed. The majority, that included conservatives Samuel Alito, Jr. and Chief Justice John Roberts, failed to explain how it was just to penalize Ms. Ledbetter for her inability to discover the longstanding discrimination that was alleged in her complaint when she did not know about it.
The CBIA has advocated communication with Congressional representative to oppose the “Ledbetter Fair Pay Act” (H.R. 2831) claiming that the legislation that has been passed by the House and is being considered by the Senate will not see the light of day. Of course, any legislation that is calculated to do justice for all will likely be the subject of a Presidential Veto and George W. Bush has threatened to Veto the legislation should it reach his desk.
The CBIA advances its opposition to the legislation because it believes that the Ledbetter decision forces the employee to report discrimination quickly and permits the employer to defend itself while “the evidence is fresh”. Unfortunately for workers victimized by discrimination, the Ledbetter decision is intellectually and pragmatically dishonest. For decades, the prevailing wisdom has permitted the application of Title VII to a course of discriminatory acts that were unknown to the victim thus holding accountable under the law the employer that has violated the law over an extended period of concealment. While all involved in the justice system recognize the advantages of dealing with evidence while it is fresh, when it comes to discrimination, the employer is in a uniquely advantageous position as it controls the evidence including payroll and personnel records. Thus, it is the employee that is at a disadvantage by the failure of the employer to reveal its pattern of discrimination.
The “Ledbetter Fair Pay Act” is an attempt by Congress to level the playing field in discrimination cases. It is also an affirmation of the Congressional intent concerning the applicable statute of limitations. Remember, when a statute of limitations is used to deny a person a chance to have his or her case heard on the merits, it amounts to a denial of justice. Why should an employee lose out on a claim for discrimination based upon a 180 day notice requirement when one business can sue another business on a written contract 6 years after a breach of that contract? The “Ledbetter Fair Pay Act” will only prove costly to employers that have broken the law. Despite C.B.I.A.’s protests to the contrary, making the wrongdoers pay is the right way to go.
I urge you to write to your representatives and let them know that the Ledbetter bill should have their support.
By Stewart Casper. Posted August 1, 2007