Trial Lawyers Win Big

Posted: Jan 09, 2009 4:18 PM
Today, the House passed the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act at the urging of its Democrat leadership. While these bills sound well and good by name alone, the fact of the matter is that they do nothing for the struggling American worker and go a long way in lining the pockets of a key political ally of the House majority– trial lawyers.

The truth of the matter is that there are effective and sufficient payment discrimination laws already on the books. These bills simply make it easier to file lawsuits – whether they’re frivolous or well-founded.  And, it makes it harder for employers to defend themselves.

The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act eliminates the statute of limitations on pay-discrimination claims currently set in place by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling. As a result, the number of frivolous pay-discrimination claims in future years is likely to skyrocket since older claims are more subject to faded memories, missing documents, unfound witnesses, and businesses that have changed hands or no longer exist.

The Paycheck Fairness Act expands the Equal Pay Act to provide for unlimited punitive and compensatory damages to a successful plaintiff. Worst of all, it moves the burden of proof to the employer. Instead of the employee having to prove they were discriminated against, they simply will be able to make the allegation and the employer has to prove that they acted out of “business necessity.”  Furthermore, the employer defense would be negated if an employee could show that another employment practice could have yielded a non-pay-differential result.  This removes key business decisions from employers and gives them to a judge and jury.

But that’s not all. The true intent of the bill – to generate more lawsuits and line the pockets of trial lawyers – is made most clear in its provisions expanding class action lawsuits.  These provisions are plainly designed to ensure that plaintiffs’ lawyers get the “most bang for their buck” in bringing class-action lawsuits rather than protecting the paychecks of American workers.

And the only Republican amendment allowed to be offered by the Democrat majority – a commonsense amendment that would have capped attorney’s fees at $2000 an hour in cases brought under the Paycheck Fairness Act – was rejected on a nearly party-line vote.

It's a shame that the Democrat majority found it more worthwhile to protect their political allies than the American worker desperately depending on job growth. Instead of fostering a business environment where jobs can flourish, these bills severely hamper the ability of American business to increase our nation's prosperity.