BECAUSE A 'REASONABLE PERSON' SHOULD KNOW ABOUT DISCRIMINATION. In an editorial today titled "Fair Pay, the Right Way," the WaPo says that the Ledbetter ruling was bad, but doesn't quite endorse Congress' legislative reaction:

This isn't as terrible as some business squawking might lead you to believe: It was a standard that was in use in many parts of the country before the Supreme Court decision, without dire consequences, and businesses would still be protected from abusive claims by existing provisions that cap punitive damages at $300,000 and prevent workers from collecting more than two years' worth of back pay.

Still, the House bill would all but eliminate a statute of limitations, which was not Congress's original intent, and the Senate should consider whether something other than a paycheck trigger may be fairer. One possibility: adopting a "reasonable person" standard. That would allow a worker to file a claim beyond the 180 days now mandated by the court's decision, but not beyond the point where a court could conclude that a "reasonable person" could have or should have been aware of the discrimination.

While this seems like fair middle ground, I think the WaPo was more on par when it said that this law was in place for years without dire consequences, so why are we looking to compromise now? The "reasonable person" clause seems like dangerous territory to give in on. How could you argue that someone "should have" known that he or she was discriminated against, and even if you could argue that, how do you get around factors like intimidation? A woman or minority may know that he or she is being discriminated against, but is still reluctant to file a claim or lawsuit in order to avoid workplace conflict.

--Kay Steiger

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