Thursday, January 22, 2009

Why Does Bob Corker Hate Workers?

I know I’ve been on record saying I’ve been pleasantly surprised by Sen. Bob Corker. But since the November elections he’s been one huge disappointment after another.

First there was his slap in the face to union workers, then his bizarre statement on Obama’s global climate change advisor, and now I learn he voted against cloture on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.

The reason, according to this statement, is that an amendment put forward by Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas failed:
“There is a delicate balance that must be met between protecting individuals from discrimination in the workplace and ensuring claims are filed and investigated in a timely manner. The Lilly Ledbetter bill without this amendment, however, is unfair to both the party being discriminated against and the employer facing a discrimination lawsuit. It would effectively eliminate the statute of limitations that sets a reasonable time frame for filing a complaint and would allow anyone – without limitation – to file a claim against an employer who may feel affected by the discrimination of another employee. Furthermore, passing Lilly Ledbetter will congest our court system, meaning cases with merit will be harder to detect from the frivolous suits that will inevitably occur.”

The Hutchison amendment failed by a vote of 40-55 causing Corker to oppose passage of S.181.
Umm ... okay, that’s just the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard. Eliminating a 180-day time limit was the whole point of the bill. S.181 was crafted to basically correct a Supreme Court decision imposing ridiculous statutory limitations on pay discrimination cases:
The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision denying Ledbetter's complaint, ruled that a worker must file a claim within 180 days of the initial decision to pay a worker less, even if the worker did not discover the pay disparity until years later.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act basically extends that period. Attaching a 180-day statute of limitations onto a bill designed to remove a 180-day statute of limitations strikes me as dishonest.

From the National Women’s Law Center:

“The Hutchison amendment weakens pay discrimination law, rather than restoring it to where it has been for decades.  It does not reinstate the longstanding principle that employees may challenge each discriminatory paycheck they receive.

“The Ledbetter decision created a draconian rule that employees have 180 days from the time of their first discriminatory paycheck to file a formal government complaint and otherwise forfeit their rights to receive equal pay for equal work.  The 180-day clock runs even where the employee wants to try to work it out with the employer or if the discriminatory pay persists or becomes worse over months or years. The Hutchison amendment leaves this unfair and unacceptable rule in place, with just one very limited exception – the 180 days could be extended only if the employee can prove that she did not have and ‘should not have been expected to have’ a reasonable suspicion of any discrimination.

“Instead of helping Lilly Ledbetter and employees like her to challenge their rights to equal pay, the Hutchison amendment would impose additional burdens on the victims of pay discrimination to prove a negative: that they had no reason to have known about the discrimination.  And it would give the employer a free ride to continue the pay discrimination and shortchange their employees.  This is an especially cruel blow when women only earn about 78 cents for every dollar earned by men.”

Honestly, if Corker doesn’t like the idea of employees suing for pay discrimination, why not just vote against the bill entirely? Why come up with those bogus “pro small business” excuses?

Are you afraid of looking like you’re in favor of pay discrimination? Or, perhaps, that you’re willing to put the needs of profit-making corporations over those of workers?

Well, if the shoe fits.

Fortunately, the cloture motion passed overwhelmingly and the bill will likely pass this evening. But probably not with Bob Corker’s vote.