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Legislative Attempt to Change Limitations Period For Unequal Pay Claims

All civil cases must be filed in court within applicable statutes of limitation. If a plaintiff does not timely file his/her claim, the court will dismiss the matter. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that a gender discrimination claim involving unequal pay between men and women begins to accrue when the plaintiff receives his or her first unequal pay. See Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Employers hailed this as a major windfall and plaintiff’s attorneys criticized the decision because many plaintiffs do not even know they are being paid less than other similarly qualified individuals for a long time, and therefore lose their right to bring an unfair pay claim.

The legislature decided to weigh in on the issue. On July 31st the House of Representatives passed H.R. 2831, the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007, which reinstates the “paycheck accrual rule” in effect for employment discrimination cases prior to the Ledbetter decision. The bill passed with 225 voting for the bill and 199 against it. A companion bill, S. 1843, the Fair Pay Restoration Act of 2007, was introduced in the Senate on July 20, 2007.

If the Senate passes S. 1843, the bill will move on to the President for approval. The White House has threatened to veto the bill. If the bill becomes law, each time an employee receives a discriminatory paycheck, s/he is subject to another instance of discrimination, effectively restarting the applicable statute of limitations.

Regardless of the applicable statute of limitations, it is never wise to pay different rates for the same work. It is acceptable to pay higher wages to persons with more skills even though the person is performing the same job as somebody with fewer skills. This may, however, cause the lower paid worker to believe s/he is the victim of discrimination. Keep in mind; California employers cannot require employees to keep their pay rates confidential.

The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego
95 South Market Street, Suite 520
San Jose, CA 95113
Tel. 408-293-6341
Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman, former associate of The Law Office of Phillip J. Griego.

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Phillip J. Griego represents employees and businesses throughout Silicon Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area including Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Los Altos, San Jose, the South Bay Area, Campbell, Los Gatos, Cupertino, Morgan Hill, Gilroy, Sunnyvale, Santa Cruz, Saratoga, and Alameda, San Mateo, Santa Clara, San Benito, Mendocino, and Calaveras counties.