In the waning hours late last week before Congress took its summer vacation, Congress was busy debating (or in some cases, not debating) some key employment bills.  These all still require approval from the one side of Congress or the other, but these bills are getting closer to becoming law.  (For a refresher on how a bill becomes a law, you can always click here.)

Paycheck Fairness Act

Long-time Representative Rosa DeLauro, from the Third Congressional District in Connecticut, must be a happy camper this week after the Paycheck Fairness Act she sponsored passed the House of Representatives on July 31st by a 247-148 vote.  The bill would limit the defenses employers have to an Equal Pay Act claim and amend the FLSA to add claims for compensatory damages and punitive damages.  (H/T Workplace Prof)

The bill now goes on to the Senate for a voice where its prospects are far from clear. Groups like the Heritage Foundation claim the act would "give[] a windfall to trial lawyers, exposing employers to unlimited punitive damages for unintentional mistakes."  On the other hand, others, like the National Women’s Law Center, claim the bill would merely close the "gender gap" that still exists.  It should be noted that this bill differs from the "Fair Pay Act".

ADA Amendments Act (f/k/a ADA Restoration Act)

After passing the House earlier this year, the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 has stalled at the Senate.  However, late last week, Senator Tom Harkin and Senator Orrin Hatch introduced a new bill (S. 3406) that makes two significant changes to the House bill.  You can download the text of the bill here.   With 64 co-sponsors, these changes are getting close enough to win over support of the business community (and ward off a veto threat).  If passed, this new bill would need to be reconciled with the bill passed by the House earlier this year.   

What are the two changes?

  • First, the bill eliminates a definition for "substantially limits", which was in the House bill.  The new bill would advise courts to simply consider impairments that are of central importance of people’s day-to-day activities.
  • The other change will only affect the education-related portion of the bill.  That change now says that reasonable modifications to educational policies are not mandated if the modifications would fundamentally change the program. 

E-Verify Extension

Florida Employment Law Blog reports that the House of Representatives has approved a bill that would extend E-Verify, the federal government’s electronic employment verification system, by five years.  The bill, HR 6633 or the Employee Verification Act of 2008, passed by a 407-2.

The bill now moves to the Senate for a vote; however, the Senate is in recess for the next five weeks.