Thursday, August 02, 2007

SCotUS and Bush: "Don't bother complaining if you don't notice that missing quarter for more than six months."

Lauren, over at Unsprung, has a great bit about Ledbetter v. Goodyear. For those who aren't familiar with the case, it was basically a case of serious wage discrimination. Lilly Ledbetter worked for Goodyear Tire for over two decades. Near the end of her employment there, information came to her attention that led her to believe she was being unfairly discriminated against- it turned out that she was being paid significantly less than men who were doing less work than she was in the same positions. When the case reached the SCotUS, the court found against Ledbetter. According to Title VII, discriminatory intent has to occur within 180 days of the charge. That is, Ledbetter would have to have been denied a raise within 180 days prior to her claim of discrimination. Being issued a paycheck that reflects the discrimination is not, the court says, an act of discrimination itself.

Ginsberg dissented, rightly noting that pay discrimination is an ongoing and often subtle form of discrimination, and that it's often the case that pay is kept secret from other employees and that employers are keen to keep employees from discussing and knowing how much each other make.

The House (or, more accurately, the House Dems), have been critical of the ruling, and are looking to pass legislation that would reset the statute of limitations every time a discriminatory paycheck was issued, as each paycheck that reflects discriminatory raises constitutes a new act of discrimination. Unfortunately, the president has made it very clear that any such legislation would be vetoed on his watch.

Which is, to put it lightly, bullshit.

If I start to embezzle money from my employer, when do you think that the statute of limitations starts to run out? The first time I do it? When I come up with the scheme?

Hell no! Every time I take money from them, the clock is reset. It's worth noting, as well, that the statute of limitations for embezzlement is measured in years, not months.

This is completely about protecting corporate interests, and it's disgusting. By refusing to hear cases of discrimination that are more than six months old, the court ensures that workers who've discovered that they've been cheated don't have legal recourse, which, given the very nature of pay discrimination, protects coroporations from costly lawsuits. If they can keep pay discrimination quiet for six months- not a difficult task in a day and age when many employers have official policies prohibiting employees from discussing wages- they free themselves from having to pay out discrimination awards or back wages or costly settlements. Meanwhile, embezzlement, a crime that costs corporations, can be charged, from what I can see, up to seven years after the last instance of embezzlement.

Proving discrimination is pretty hard, and the deck is stacked against you from the get-go. It's bad enough that you only have six months to file discrimination charges given how difficult it is to gather evidence and prove in the first place, but to be told that the six months start from the first moment of discrimination, even in a case like this, where the discrimination is ongoing and has lasting effect? Downright offensive. And when the president of the United States makes it clear that he's going to shoot down efforts to help workers see that they're treated in a fair and equitable manner?

I'm almost speechless.

1 comment:

Cara said...

Wait, wait, let me get this straight. So, Bush hates women and racial minorities, and loves rich corporations run by old, rich, white men who play golf with his dad? No, seriously? Damn.

In all seriousness, though, fuck that guy. Where's the clock at, again. How many days are left?