Fair Pay Laws
If you got here by searching for "fair pay laws," "fair pay acts" or a related term, then the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 (Fair Pay Act or Ledbetter Act) is probably at least one of the laws you were seeking. Regardless, it and several other so-called fair pay laws are summarized below.
Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, referred to as the Fair Pay Act or Ledbetter Act for short, is one among the Federal employment discrimination laws.
It was a well-publicized act because it greatly extended the statute of limitations for filing a pay (or other compensation) discrimination charge and subsequent lawsuit against an employer. It works in conjunction with the Other Discrimination Laws as Fair Pay Laws summarized below.
Before the Fair Pay Act became effective, an employee had 180 days to file a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) from only the first incident of pay discrimination under a Federal discrimination law, or 300 days if the charge also fell under a related state law.
That was the case even if the employee had not yet discovered in 180 or 300 days that he or she was compensated less than his or her work peers solely for a discriminatory reason. Thanks to the Fair Pay Act, an employee now has 180 or 300 days to file a charge from each incident of pay discrimination, such as after each discriminatory paycheck.
Except under the Equal Pay Act summarized below, you must first file a discrimination charge with the EEOC before you may file a lawsuit in court. To better convince the EEOC to act on your behalf or grant you the right to file a private lawsuit, it's a good idea to hire a lawyer (though not required) to help you collect evidence and file your charge in legalese. Lawyers often take winnable discrimination cases on contingency.
Even though the namesake of the Fair Pay Act belongs to a woman named Lilly Ledbetter, it better protects both male and female workers from pay discrimination and other types of compensation discrimination.
Other Discrimination Laws as Fair Pay Laws
Although they are not named or typically referred to as fair pay laws, the other Federal employment discrimination acts summarized below function as such, in that one of their collective purposes is to require employers to exercise fair pay practices.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) is a fair pay law of sorts, because it prohibits employers from discriminating against workers in any aspect of employment, including pay, solely on the basis of age. The ADEA generally applies to employers with 20 or more employees.
This fair pay law protects only workers of age 40 or older, but of any race, color, religion, disability, national origin or gender. It was amended by the Older Workers Benefit Protection Act of 1990 (OWBPA), another fair pay law of sorts. See Age Discrimination for more information.
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against workers in any aspect of employment solely because of their disabilities. The Rehabilitation Act (RA) is the ADA equivalent for Federal government employees.
The ADA and RA are also fair pay laws of sorts, because they prohibit employers from compensating disabled workers less than their non-disabled work peers. (However, with special permission from the U.S. Department of Labor, employers may pay certain disabled workers less than the Federal minimum wage.) See Americans with Disabilities Act or Rehabilitation Act for more information.
Equal Pay Act of 1963
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is likely to be considered a landmark "fair pay law" (so to speak) in the future, but the Equal Pay Act was the first. The EPA amended the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA) to prohibit any employer from paying unequal wages to men and women for equal work within the same establishment.
Congress passed the EPA primarily to prohibit employers from cheating women out of equal pay for equal work, but it protects men from that too. See Equal Pay for more information.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Title VII of this discrimination act is also a landmark law and applies to employment matters. It prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against employees in any aspect of employment, such as pay, on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin or sex (gender).
Workers might benefit more by taking legal action on the basis of gender under Title VII instead of the Equal Pay Act above, because Title VII is less restrictive on workers as a fair pay law; for example, Title VII does not require that the complainant's job be substantially equal to those of higher-paid workers of the opposite sex, as does the EPA.
More Fair Pay Laws
Of course, what are collectively referred to as wage and hour laws also function as fair pay laws, because they require employers to fairly pay eligible employees their due; examples are the minimum wage, overtime pay, show-up pay (reporting pay) and the prevailing wage.
Browse Fair Pay at the U.S. Department of Labor for more information about the minimum wage, overtime pay and related matters. For legal advice about any of these so-called fair pay laws, consult a lawyer.
On April 8, 2014, President Obama signed an Executive Order and a Presidential Memorandum that support fair pay laws (equal pay laws). The order prohibits Federal contractors from retaliating against employees who choose to discuss their salary information with each other. The memorandum instructs the U.S. Department of Labor to create regulations that require Federal contractors to report wage data by race and gender.