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United States: New Law Overturns Supreme Court Ruling on Statute of Limitations in Pay Discrimination Lawsuits

(Feb. 26, 2009) On January 29, 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which reverses a 2007 Supreme Court decision interpreting the statute of limitations for lawsuits under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The new law clarifies that the statute of limitations for employment discrimination claims begins to run with each paycheck reflecting a discriminatory pay decision or practice.

Title VII prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, sex, religion, or national origin. In Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., the Supreme Court held that the six-month statute of limitations in Title VII begins to run at the time the discriminatory pay decision occurred, rather than with each paycheck reflecting the discriminatory decision. (See United States – Supreme Court Limits Pay Discrimination Lawsuits, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR, June 2007, at 29-30, available at //

The new law, which is named after the plaintiff in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., overturns that decision by providing that the statute of limitations begins to run each time an employee receives compensation negatively affected by a discriminatory decision or practice, regardless of when that decision or practice occurred. In addition to Title VII, the new law applies to claims under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities Act. (Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, Public Law No. 111-2, 123 Stat. 5, available at