No Runny Eggs

The repository of one hard-boiled egg from the south suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin (and the occassional guest-blogger). The ramblings within may or may not offend, shock and awe you, but they are what I (or my guest-bloggers) think.

Part Of The 3, No 3.5, No 4 Million New Jobs?

by @ 5:13 on January 22, 2009. Filed under Lawsuit madness.

There are times in ones life when  one needs to make a decision or forfeit an opportunity.    Buying a lottery ticket,   increasing a bid on EBay or responding to an email from the Nigerian government who wants to provide you millions of dollars if you’ll just let them use your bank account.   The same is true in the opportunity to file lawsuits.  

Under current Federal law, an individual has 180 days from the date of an incident to file a suit for sex discrimination.   That fact was affirmed in 2006 in a case called Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.   In that case, Ledbetter suit Goodyear for sex discrimination and won.   However, on appeal to the Supreme Court, the decision was overturned because Ledbetter had not filed her suit within the statute of limitations.   Ledbetter’s attorney’s attempted to argue that the statute started at the time that any pay impacted by the discrimination was paid.   The thrust of their argument was that as long as Ledbetter stayed employed and had pay impacted by the discrimination act she could sue.   The Supreme Court ruled that when the pay occurred didn’t matter but that the statute starts at the point of the specific act.

Last year the Senate Democrats introduced a bill to correct what they saw as an injustice, identified in the Ledbetter case.   The Dems have introduced a bill that would not just provide a bit more time but that would in essence remove any statute of limitation from the filing of a sex discrimination act as long as the alleged victim was still receiving compensation from the company that allowed the alleged discrimination. “Compensation” as it is currently understood in the bill is not just limited to pay for current services.   Compensation would include any retirement benefits that the alleged victim received well after they ended employment and potentially decades after any alleged incidents.

Enter a little common sense

Senator Hutchison has introduced an amendment to the Ledbetter bill.   The amendment would change the statute of limitations to be 180 days from the date that the alleged victim initially has the reasonable suspicion they’re being discriminated against.

The downside of the Ledbetter Act without amendment is obvious.   With the equivalent of no statute of limitations there are issues of memory or recollection of specific events after 20+ years, is everyone involved still alive.  In the most extreme circumstances it’s possible  that someone who believes they’ve been discriminated against waits for years and years, until they have accumulated the potential for a nice retirement settlement, all while the employee continues to receive payment for their services.

If you don’t think the last scenario could occur, than we have agreement that there should be a statute of limitations.   The question becomes at what length.

While the Hutchison amendment still has some challenges that could cause debates of “what did they know and when did they know it,” the likely outcome is that the statute of limitations would have more flexibility than the current one without leaving it open indefinitely.     After all, can you imagine an offending employer trying to make the case that the filing date should have been earlier because they were clear in their discrimination much earlier than the victim “became aware” of it?   Victims would have fairly wide latitude in claiming “awareness” but would not be allowed a limitless time frame unless there were multiple infractions.  

The only group who appears to be economically disadvantaged by the provisions of the Hutchison amendment versus the Ledbetter Act, would be the trial lawyers.   With the equivalent of no statute of limitations, trial lawyers could go fishing in waters that are potentially limitless.   Fishing at the expense of employers who may have no guilt but will pay attorney fees for alleged acts that had occurred decades previous.

Maybe Harry Reid and the Senate Democrats are counting the new trial lawyer jobs created with their over reaching legislation as their contribution to President Obama’s commitment to creating… many jobs are we up to?

Call you Senator and tell them to support the Hutchison amendment to the Ledbetter Act.   Let’s give victims time to assess their options without giving trial lawyers time to black mail innocent companies.

Revisions/extensions (11:54 am 1/22/2009, steveegg) – The Hutchison amendment failed by a 40-55 vote. Every Democrat who was present (which excludes the ailing-again Ted Kennedy and the MIA Tom Harkin, along with Olympia Snowe (R/PIG-Maine, or RINO-Maine if you prefer), voted against the amendment.

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