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Supreme Court Trims Reach of Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 and Reaffirms Settled Law on Retroactive Application of Statutes

May 26, 2009

By Neal D. Mollen and Dara H. Freling

Just months ago, Congress passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, reversing the Supreme Courts decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 127 S. Ct. 2162, 2172 (2007). A 7-2 majority of the Court has now denied the legislation a far-reaching construction urged by the plaintiffs and in the process reaffirmed settled law regarding the retrospective application of discrimination laws.

The question presented in AT&T Corp. vs. Hulteen, 556 U.S. ___, No. 07-543, 2009 WL 1361539 (May 18, 2009), was whether an employer necessarily violates [Title VII] when it pays pension benefits calculated in part under an accrual rule [that was lawful when adopted] that gave less retirement credit for pregnancy leave than for medical leave generally. AT&T, 2009 WL 1361539 at *2. The Court held that no violation occurred because the benefit calculation rule in this case is part of a bona fide seniority system under §703(h) of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U. S. C. §2000e2(h), which insulates it from challenge. Id.

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