In an outstanding victory for women’s rights, the Paycheck Fairness Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act were the first bills to pass the House in the new legislative session. The Paycheck Fairness Act passed with a 256-163 vote and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passed with a 247-171 vote.
The Paycheck Fairness Act passed the House in the last Congress, but was never sent to the Senate floor. It will deter wage discrimination by closing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and by barring retaliation against workers who disclose their wages.
This Ledbetter Act passed the House in the previous Congress, but Republicans filibustered the bill and prevented a vote in the Senate. It corrects the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire Rubber Co., Inc. Supreme Court decision (see PDF) that gutted the ability of women workers to sue for wage discrimination. Ledbetter worked for Goodyear for 19 years before discovering that she was paid significantly less than her male counterparts with the same or less experience. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the complaint had to be filed within 180 days of the initial salary decision even if the victim is unaware of the discrimination until much later.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that “equal pay is an issue of fundamental fairness…but as families grapple with difficult economic times, equal pay for equal work is often about daily survival for millions of families,” according to the Associated Press.