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Supreme Court Limits Charge-Filing Period for Disparate Pay Claims; Rejects “Paycheck” Rule

An employee who believes that he or she has been subjected to pay discrimination must act promptly to raise the claim, the Supreme Court of the United States held last week in a controversial 5-4 decision. Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Inc., 550 U.S. ___ (2007). Pay decisions, the Court held, are “discrete acts” of discrimination, and should be treated just like termination or promotion decisions for timeliness purposes. Therefore, Title VII’s limitations period (180 or 300 days, depending on the jurisdiction) begins to run when the employee learns that the decision has been made. Businesses breathed a collective sigh of relief as the Court rejected the plaintiff’s assertion that the “continuing violations” doctrine could resuscitate an otherwise time-barred pay claim each time a new paycheck issues.


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