President signs equal pay for equal work bill

This morning, President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law, an equal-pay bill that will make it easier for employees to sue for pay discrimination.

As Obama signed his first piece of legislation as President, he ended a 2007 Supreme Court decision that said workers must file a pay-discrimination lawsuit within 180 days of a company’s initial decision to pay them less than another worker performing the same job.

Throughout his campaign, Obama promised to sign the bill, which became a focal point for labor and women’s groups.

From President Obama’s statement on the law this morning:

It is fitting that with the very first bill I sign - the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act - we are upholding one of this nation's first principles: that we are all created equal and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness.

... So in signing this bill today, I intend to send a clear message: That making our economy work means making sure it works for everyone. That there are no second class citizens in our workplaces, and that it's not just unfair and illegal - but bad for business - to pay someone less because of their gender, age, race, ethnicity, religion or disability. And that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory, or footnote in a casebook - it's about how our laws affect the daily realities of people's lives: their ability to make a living and care for their families and achieve their goals.

It is estimated that women are still paid about 78 cents for every dollar that men are paid for doing equal work, according to 2008 Census Bureau statistics.

The Act is named after a former Goodyear employee who didn’t become aware of a pay discrepancy until the end of her career. She sued, but the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that she missed her chance.

The Ledbetter Act will amend the 1964 Civil Rights Act to reach farther than gender to include pay discrimination based on factors such as race, religion, national origin, disability or age.

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