October 16th, 2008
04:46 AM ET
14 years ago

Fact Check: Would equal-pay bill waive the statute of limitations?

The Statement:

During a presidential debate Wednesday, Oct. 15, in Hempstead, New York, Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain explained his opposition to legislation that would have expanded the length of time in which a worker can sue an employer for pay discrimination. "Obviously, that law waived the statute of limitations, which, you know, could have gone back 20 or 30 years," McCain said. "It was a trial lawyer's dream."

Get the facts!

The Facts:

The legislation McCain was referring to was the Lilly Ledbetter Act of 2007. The bill was spurred by the case of Ledbetter, a former employee who sued Goodyear Tire, alleging that she had suffered years of unequal pay. Ledbetter's case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, only to be thrown out on the grounds that she should have filed suit within 180 days of the first unfair paycheck.

The legislation that was drafted in response to the high court decision would allow people who claim they are victims of wage discrimination to sue up to 180 days after the last instance of discrimination - not the first, as current law requires. Supporters say that would allow people who don't immediately
recognize they are being paid unfairly to seek relief.

The Obama campaign has repeatedly mentioned the legislation during the campaign. Lilly Ledbetter herself spoke at the Democratic National Convention. It passed the House, but on April 23, it failed to get the 60 votes needed to end a Republican-led filibuster. Obama and his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, voted for it. McCain was not present for the vote, but said on the campaign trail he was against it.

The Verdict:

False. The legislation does not waive the statute of limitations on discrimination suits, as McCain says,
but changes the interpretation of when the limitation begins in cases of continuing violations.

Filed under: Fact Check • John McCain
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