A U.S. District Court ruled that a Jackson State University professor’s gender discrimination claim that she was denied tenure is timely under the recently enacted Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. This law extends the time to preserve a claim with an EEOC filing time to 180 days (300 days in states such as Virginia which have state deferral agencies) after the last paycheck including the discriminatory pay. Under the old rule (before the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act’s enactment), the professor’s claim would have been untimely unless brought within 180 days (300 in Viriginia) after the first discriminatory paycheck after being denied tenure.
This appears to be the first court applying the law to gender based pay differentials resulting from a denial of a promotion or, here, tenure. The professor, LaVerne Gentry, alleged that she was purportedly denied tenure because she had was not published, but that male professors who had not been published had received tenure and were promoted.
The Ledbetter Fair Pay Act clearly applies to discriminatory pay differentials and removes the argument that many employers had used to avoid such claims – that they were not brought within a short time after the first discriminatory check was issued. More often than not, employees who were paid less than men were not told this. The language of the Act allows challenges to gender based pay differences irrespective of when the decision was made to pay women less or when the first discriminatory check was received.