updated 1/22/2009 8:24:17 PM ET 2009-01-23T01:24:17

A wage discrimination bill that heralds the pro-labor policies of the Democratic-controlled Congress and White House cleared the Senate Thursday and could be on President Barack Obama’s desk within days.

The legislation reverses a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that narrowly defines the time period during which a worker can file a claim of wage discrimination, even if the worker is unaware for months or years that he or she is getting less than colleagues doing the same job.

The House is expected to act quickly to again approve the measure, sending it to Obama for his signature. The House passed it two weeks ago but then combined it with another bill that the Senate didn’t consider.

Obama strongly backs the measure and invited Lilly Ledbetter, the retired Alabama tire company worker whose lawsuit inspired the legislation, to accompany him on the train trip bringing him to Washington for the inauguration.

Former President George W. Bush threatened to veto the bill when it came up in the past, and last year it died in the Senate.

The vote was 61-36. Republicans demanded that the bill hit a 60-vote threshold for passage as a condition for moving on the legislation.

The House approved the legislation during the first week of the new session of Congress, signaling that labor rights bills that made little headway during the Bush administration will be at the top of the agenda this year. The bill paves the way for considering more controversial labor measures, including one that would take away a company’s right to demand a secret ballot when workers are seeking to organize.

The Ledbetter bill would clarify that every paycheck resulting from discrimination would constitute a new violation, extending the 180-day statute of limitations for filing a claim. The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision denying Ledbetter’s complaint, ruled that a worker must file a claim within 180 days of the initial decision to pay a worker less, even if the worker did not discover the pay disparity until years later.

Ledbetter, who was in the Capitol to watch the debate, said it was only at the end of her 19-year career at a Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. plant in Gadsden, Ala. — when someone left an anonymous note in her mailbox — that she became aware that she was getting paid less than her male counterparts. “It turns out that I was earning 70 to 85 percent of what my male colleagues were getting. I started out at a lower salary, and they gave me lower raises, over and over again.”

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

Data: Latest rates in the US

Home equity rates View rates in your area
Home equity type Today +/- Chart
$30K HELOC FICO 3.79%
$30K home equity loan FICO 4.99%
$75K home equity loan FICO 4.69%
Credit card rates View more rates
Card type Today +/- Last Week
Low Interest Cards 13.83%
Cash Back Cards 17.80%
Rewards Cards 17.18%
Source: Bankrate.com