With its first piece of legislation, the 111th Congress will send a message.  In my opinion, the message is unsettling, at best.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act will change the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to remove the 180 day statute of limitations on filing pay discrimination lawsuits.  The short, 180 day statute, was likely written into the Civil Rights law in 1964 to finally get enough Democrats to vote for it (that’s right – over 80% of Republicans voted for it but it took compromise like this to get 60% of Democrats to vote for Civil Rights).  It is probably an unfair provision that allowed for a fair amount of abuse.  Essentially eliminating a statute of limitations, as the new law will, is swinging too far in the opposite direction.  IMO a statute of limitations in the range of two years would have been a reasonable change.

Unfortunately, this new law was a very high priority for trial lawyers, the National Organization of Women, and most Unions.  I can only assume that passage of this law was part of the political dealing that brought complete support and lots of dollars for Mr. Obama’s campaign from these groups.  

Only time will tell, but I fear little will change except the increase of plaintiff’s attorney’s bank accounts.  Bad people will do bad things.  Those who would have discriminated before this change will still do so.  Many will do it, not by paying less to those against whom they discriminate, but by not hiring them in the first place.  

I wonder if any of those who voted for this law were aware of the state of our competitiveness on the world economic stage.  I don’t wonder that this will make us less competitive.

Congress has now set a tone and I can only hear it through my left ear.  I hope it is just one early false step but, it now looks like Mr. Obama may have to be the moderating influence in our government.

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