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WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer spoke on the House Floor today in support of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:
"Mr. Speaker, when the Supreme Court wrongly decides a case - particularly when Congressional intent is at issue - the United States Congress can and should act to remedy it.
"That is precisely what this carefully crafted, measured legislation - the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007 - is designed to do.
"Make no mistake: the Court's five-to-four decision on May 29 in Ledbetter versus Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company was wrongly decided.
"The merits of Lilly Ledbetter's wage discrimination claim seem beyond doubt. A federal jury agreed that she was discriminated against.
"The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission agreed with Ms. Ledbetter's claims - although the Bush Administration switched its position once the case got to the Supreme Court.
"Most importantly, Lilly Ledbetter was paid less than all of her male counterparts, even those who had less seniority.
"And, this clearly was not a case where her performance was suspect. Goodyear gave her a 'top performance award' in 1996.
"The fact is, the Court majority took an extremely cramped view of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act - holding that Ms. Ledbetter and claimants like her must file their pay discrimination claims within 180 days of the original discriminatory act.
"But there are at least three serious problems with the Court's flawed analysis.
"First, the unlawful discrimination against Ms. Ledbetter did not begin and end with Goodyear's original decision to pay her less than her male co-workers.
"In fact, every paycheck that Lilly Ledebetter received after Goodyear's decision to pay her less was a continuing manifestation of Goodyear's illegal sex discrimination.
"As Justice Ginsberg said in dissent, each subsequent paycheck was 'infected' by the original decision to unlawfully discriminate.
"Second, the Court dismissed the realities of the workplace far too casually. Detecting pay discrimination is not easy, and sometimes it may take years to uncover.
"Why? Because people generally do not talk openly with their co-workers about their salaries, raises and bonuses. In fact, many employers strive to keep such information confidential.
"Just consider: Ms. Ledbetter apparently did not become aware that she had been discriminated against until she received an anonymous letter alerting her to the discrimination.
"And third, Mr. Speaker, the Court majority ignored its own holdings that Congress intended Title VII to have a broad remedial purpose - to make persons whole for injuries suffered on account of unlawful employment discrimination.
"Finally, let me say that those who claim that this bill somehow eliminates the statute of limitations are incorrect. Under this bill, an employee must still file a charge within the statutory filing period after receiving a discriminatory paycheck.
"Mr. Speaker, this bill is fair. It is just. And it comports with the intent of this Congress in passing the Civil Rights Act. I urge my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, to support it."