Thursday, August 23, 2007

Big changes in the political winds?

I've written a lot since starting this blog about the various bills introduced in the House and Senate to amend Title VII and other employment law statutes. Indeed, one of my very first posts asked whether federal legislation would bring us new protected classes. Following my lead, the National Law Journal has nicely summarized the assorted employment law reforms Congress has introduced this session:

  • Ledbetter Fair Pay Act: reverses the Ledbetter decision by setting forth that each discriminatory paycheck is a discrete act of discrimination for purposes of triggering Title VII's statue of limitations.
  • American with Disabilities Restoration Act: amends the definition of "disability" to undo a decade of Supreme Court precedent.
  • Employment Non-Discrimination Act: adds protections for sexual orientation and gender identity to Title VII.
  • Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act: prohibits employment decisions based on genetic information.
  • Civil Rights Tax Relief Act: eliminates taxation of non-economic damages received by employment plaintiffs.
  • Equal Remedies Act: removes Title VII's caps on compensatory and punitive damages.
  • Arbitration Fairness Act: invalidates pre-dispute arbitration agreements requiring arbitration of employment disputes.

Some of these reforms, namely ending the loophole that allows companies to invidiously discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, are long overdue. Others, such as the ADA Restoration Act, the Equal Remedies Act, and Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, will have far greater and more onerous consequences for employers. Because the Democrats don't have enough votes to overturn a Presidential veto, most of these bills currently are nothing more than political rhetoric. If, however, a Democrat wins the White House, 2009 will be a very interesting year, as companies should expect sweeping changes to federal employment laws, the likes of which have not been seen for more than a decade.

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