UPDATE 1-US House to vote Friday on two pay fairness bills

Wed Jan 7, 2009 6:57pm GMT

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(Adds bill details, Hoyer comment, background, byline)

By Kevin Drawbaugh

WASHINGTON Jan 7 (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives plans to vote on Friday on two bills to combat workplace sex discrimination, including legislation named after an Alabama woman who lost a pay equity case at the U.S. Supreme Court because she waited too long to file a lawsuit, a senior lawmaker said on Wednesday.

The Lilly Ledbetter bill -- blocked in the Senate last year by Republicans -- has been a key project of U.S. labor unions, which played a big role in November in helping Democrats make gains in Congress and capture the White House.

Ledbetter, after 19 years on the job, sued her employer when she discovered she was the lowest-paid supervisor at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co GT.N plant where she worked, despite having more experience than several male co-workers.

A jury found she was the victim of unlawful discrimination. But an appeals court said she waited too long to sue.

In May 2007, the Supreme Court agreed with the lower court and gave businesses a win by ruling discrimination lawsuits must be filed within six months of the act of discrimination.

The Ledbetter legislation would reverse the Supreme Court decision by saying that workers must file a discrimination lawsuit within six months of each new discriminatory paycheck.

"On Friday we intend to do two bills that deal with pay equity and also with the ability to address pay discrimination," House Democratic Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland told reporters in a briefing.

He said the Supreme Court ruled imposed "an unduly restrictive requirement on employees."

He said the bill is based on the "very fair" idea that "every week that someone is paid in a discriminatory fashion, that is a new discriminatory event."

The other bill set to come before the House for a vote would strengthen parts of the 1963 Equal Pay Act and "close the loopholes that have allowed employers to avoid responsibility for discriminatory pay," said a summary of the bill. (Reporting by Kevin Drawbaugh; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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