Republicans Reinforce Job Discrimination

April 24th, 2008

Wow, the right-wingers are really showing their true colors as bigots. They just filibustered (what, the 5,349,816th time this session?) a bill that would make it possible for workers to sue for pay discrimination, essentially killing it. Obama and Clinton returned to D.C. to vote for it, and McCain stayed away, signaling that he would have voted to kill it anyway.

Let’s rehash: this is based upon a scummy re-interpretation of law by the Bush administration. The original law was intended to make it so that if you found out your employer was paying you less than another worker for the same job because you were the wrong gender or race, you could sue them, so long as you filed suit 180 days after the last occurrence of the discriminatory pay. That was obviously meant to be structured so that the 180 day deadline happened after the last disparate paycheck was issued.

In a suit based upon this law, an employer tried to claim that the 180-day deadline started when the initial decision was made to issue unequal pay, taking advantage of wording that was just nebulous enough to allow for that interpretation (if you’re a complete idiot). Co-workers don’t immediately disseminate how much money they make to all coworkers, and employers often strongly discourage (or even try to prohibit) such sharing in any case. Finding such disparity within 6 months of the initial pay difference is so rare to discover that the law would essentially be meaningless under the new interpretation. It’s about as obvious as it can get that this was not the way the law was supposed to work.

The plaintiff, Ms. Lilly Ledbetter, won her case, and all the appeals until it reached the conservative-stacked 11th circuit (a spin-off of the 5th circuit, the most conservative in the country)–whereupon the law suddenly changed to support discrimination. Then the case was appealed to the Supreme Court, and naturally, the Bush administration jumped on the company’s side, filing a brief in support of the bigotry, in opposition to the EEOC’s rational application of the law in accordance with decades of precedence. And the 5-member Republican majority on the Supreme Court voted along straight party lines to uphold the ludicrous reinterpretation that essentially gutted the law. (Message: if you’re a corrupt, lawbreaking corporation, now is the time to get your suits before the high court! Get the payoffs while they last!)

Some right-wingers used the “it’s the law’s fault” defense, saying that they’d like to fight against discrimination, but darn it, the law is just so clearly written to be stupid, we have no choice but to follow it and be stupid ourselves. The Bush administration made no such dodges; they simply claimed [PDF] that once a decision was made to discriminate, a corporation could not be expected to remember that it had initiated such discrimination beyond 6 months, and it would be a travesty if people were allowed to sue after discrimination had continued for years and years. (They even made the deranged argument that the Ledbetter law would discourage allegations of discrimination from being “expeditiously resolved.”)

So if a corporation got away with discrimination for 180 days, then they were home free–untouchable from that point on. As I pointed out before, this asinine view of the law just begs for abuse, and is even institutionalized in posterity if pay increases are decided as a percentage of initial pay levels.

Well, no problem–just re-word the law so that it clearly states the obvious intent. But there’s a big problem–no, two big problems: one, the president–who vowed to veto the reworded bill, and now the Senate Republicans, who just filibustered it to death before it could even get to the president’s desk.

So the conservative wingnuts in all three branches of government have not voiced their intent to let bigotry reign.

Ready to vote yet?

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention: the insidious Liberal Media™ continues to call Republican obstruction “blocking” or “denying” in their headlines, even eschewing the correct term “filibuster” in the full text of most of the articles covering this story (the few that there are, that is). They showed no such reluctance to use the word “filibuster” almost endlessly in the far more rare cases when Democrats blocked a handful of the most extremist right-wing judicial nominees.

Oh, and here’s a bonus bit of Republican hypocrisy:

Republicans said Democrats were playing politics, by timing the vote to give the Democratic presidential candidates, Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois, time to return to the Capitol from the campaign trail. Both senators spoke in support of the bill before the vote.

Yes, how terrible that they allowed senators time to vote on legislation. As opposed to four years ago, when Kerry returned to D.C. to vote for a veteran’s health care vote… and the Republican leadership delayed the vote so Kerry couldn’t vote on it. Those Republicans are just pips, aren’t they?

  1. ykw
    April 25th, 2008 at 02:05 | #1

    I think it is very difficult to comment on any bill, since they tend to be long and complicated. I would prefer smaller bills, that are easy to read by everyone, so that we can get a better sense of what is going on and the congresspeople can get more control over what is going on.

  2. April 25th, 2008 at 10:02 | #2

    So true, Luis!

  3. Judith Pearson
    March 2nd, 2009 at 03:39 | #3

    I have posted several times on my blog about Republican lack of support for civil rights issues, particularly Bush 41 & 43. I have had the plaintiff experiences to provide a frame of reference. My 1998 Discrimination and Retaliation claim was tossed in summary judgment (2001) because there was no “direct evidence” of discrimination and because I did not get fired – just involuntarily transferred – the retaliation did not meet criteria for an “adverse employment action.” This was after a “reasonable cause” finding and generous conciliation proposal from the EEOC in 1999. I wrote PLAINTIFF BLUES in 2007 to describe my earlier Ledbetter “timeline” issue and the events leading up to filing suit and summary judgment. The book won in five different 2008 awards categories including Women’s Issues, Memoir, Social Change, Education/Åcademic, and Law/General. The book and its awards are described on [my website]. Thankfully, the “direct evidence” issue has since been dealt with in Desert Palace v Costas 2003 and the “adverse action” issue in Burlington Northern v White 2006.

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