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Equal Pay for Women--Third Circuit Court Reverses Decision in Pay Discrimination Case

September 25, 2009

As Orange County, California, Labor and Employment Lawyers, we have been following new developments this month in the Mikula v. Allegheny County of Pennsylvania, gender-based pay discrimination case, in which a Federal appeals court reversed an earlier decision on the claim, focusing on the newly enacted Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit Court in Philadelphia ruled in favor of Mary Lou Mikula on September 10th, charging that her Title VII pay discrimination claim was wrongly dismissed in a previous ruling from March. Her claim was deemed invalid, based on the charge that it was not filed in a timely manner.

Mikula managed the police grants budget for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania and according to Ms. Magazine, was paid around $7,000 dollars less than a male colleague, with whom she shared many job responsibilities. After Mikula made frequent requests that her pay be matched to her male colleague's salary, her requests were ignored. Mikula then filed a gender discrimination complaint with the Human Resources department, and was told that her claim was unfounded.

In 2007, Mikula filed a gender-based wage discrimination lawsuit with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in Allegheny County, alleging discrimination on the basis of gender, failure to receive a pay raise in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and for being paid less then a male colleague who performed equal work. This was also dismissed, based on the charge that it was untimely.

Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act requires any person claiming a potentially unlawful employment practice file a charge with the EEOC within 300 days of the alleged unlawful employment practice. According to the petition, in the 2007 Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. decision, the Supreme Court ruled that "employees cannot challenge ongoing pay discrimination if the original discriminatory pay-setting occurred more than 300 days earlier, even when the employee continues to receive paychecks that have been discriminatorily reduced."

The National Women's Law Center (NWLC) championed the case, filing a petition for an appeal. The petition clearly argued that "the panel decision is not only inconsistent with the Fair Pay Act's plain text, it also undermines the very purpose of the Fair Pay Act and Title VII more broadly."

The Court focused on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act in the ruling this month, a bill that extends the time period in which employees can pursue equal compensation lawsuits, and restores the law that existed for years in regions all over the United States, including Southern California, prior to the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. Supreme Court decision. The language of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 is clear--each discriminatory paycheck renews the 300-day time limit for filing a Title VII claim. The appellate court reversed its original decision, concluding that under the Ledbetter Act, Mikula's EEOC charge was timely.

Co-President of the National Women's Law Center, Marcia D. Greenberger stated in a NWLC Press Release, that this decision is victorious for both Mikula and employees all over the country who have been denied access to equal pay. This decision gives pay discrimination victims the ability to defend their rights in court, thereby implementing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as Congress intended.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 amends Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and modifies the operation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

Court Cites Ledbetter Law in Reversing its Prior Decision, Business, September 14, 2009

Equal Pay Victory For Women in Third Circuit, Ms. Magazine, September 11, 2009

Third Circuit Holds Claim Timely Under Ledbetter Act, Jackson Lewis Press Release, September 24, 2009

Victory for Equal Pay in the Courts, NWLC Press Release, September 10, 2009

Related Web Resources:

National Women's Law Center, NWLC


Our skilled Anaheim-based Labor and Employment Lawyers are knowledgeable about gender-based pay discrimination in Orange County or throughout Southern California. If you feel that you have been discriminated against in the workplace because of your gender, contact Howard Law, PC today to schedule a free consultation about your rights.