Workplace Prof has the lowdown on a new bill that’s been introduced in both the Senate and House called the Civil Rights Act of 2008. Senator Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) is a sponsor of the Senate bill. As the Workplace Prof said, it looks like an "employee discrimination wish-list". As drafted, it would:
- eliminate the 1991 Civil Rights Act damage caps under Title VII and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA),
- amend the Equal Pay Act (EPA) to allow the "bona fide factor other than sex" defense only if an employer shows that the factor was job-related was actually used and further legitimate business purposes,
- add compensatory and punitive damages to the Fair Labor Standards Act’s (FLSA) remedial framework (which includes the EPA),
- amend the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) to prohibit clauses requiring arbitration of federal constitution or statutory claims, unless parties knowingly and voluntarily consented after the dispute arises, or as part of a collective bargaining agreement,
- allow winning plaintiffs to recover expert fees and expand the definition of prevailing party,
- give the NLRB authority to award backpay to undocumented workers.
The Profs believe that the bill likely won’t go anywhere unless there is a "President Clinton or Obama" but it will certainly provide fodder for the campaign trail. Given that the Ledbetter Fair Pay bill didn’t go very far last year, I would tend to agree here.
For those who are curious, Senator Dodd issued a statement regarding his support for the bill here:
“The best way to honor the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is to continue his work to ensure that America lives up to its promise of treating all citizens equally,” said Dodd. “The fight for civil rights will not be won or lost in a single battle, but instead is an ongoing struggle taking place in our workplaces, schools, and communities across the nation. I am honored to join Senator Kennedy and my colleagues in the Senate and Congressman John Lewis in the House of Representatives in introducing a bill that will give Americans the tools and support they need to defend themselves and others when their civil rights have been violated.”