“Elections do have consequences,” says Leonard Bierman, professor of management at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School. Lilly Ledbetter would agree. After months of debate in both the House and Senate, President Obama has signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007 into law—his first such act in his new office. Prior to his presidency, Obama co-sponsored the bill with then-Senator Hillary Clinton.

Mays management professor Leonard Bierman's research was discussed and cited in testimony last year before various congressional committees as they considered the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007.
Mays management professor Leonard Bierman’s research was discussed and cited in testimony last year before various congressional committees as they considered the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2007.

Bierman’s research on this topic was discussed and cited in testimony last year before various committees in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate as they considered this pending legislation.

The new law amends the pay discrimination provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, changing the time frame in which employees can allege pay discrimination. Previously, the law placed strict time limits on employees’ ability to file workplace pay discrimination claims with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Now, employees are able to sue the discriminatory company up to 180 days after the last paycheck they receive that is less than other employees at their level. The amendment was signed into law on January 29, 2009.

The law was amended in response to Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., the recent Supreme Court case involving Lilly Ledbetter’s quest for justice after she discovered that for 20 years she had been paid less than her male colleagues at Goodyear. The court upheld the decision of a lower federal appeals court, stating that Ledbetter’s claim was beyond the statute of limitations for alleging pay discrimination. The federal appeals court, in turn, had earlier reversed a federal trial that had ruled in Ledbetter’s favor.

“While the Supreme Court’s decision in the case may have been technically correct, it ignored the realities of today’s workplace,” said Bierman, who coauthored the article “Love, Sex and Politics? Sure. Salary? No Way: Workplace Social Norms and the Law,” which was cited in debates regarding the Ledbetter decision. The article was published in the Berkeley Journal of Employment and Labor Law in 2004.

Bierman is the coordinator of the Mays nationally top-ten ranked master’s program in human resource management. Earlier in his career he held senior positions at both EEOC and the U.S. Department of Labor.