Court Defines Limitations on Ledbetter Act

When the district court ruled against Emmanuel Noel's failure-to-promote claim on the grounds that he had missed the filing deadline, he cried Ledbetter. But to no avail: In October, the 3rd Circuit affirmed the district court's ruling in Noel v. Boeing Co., holding that the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act's scope is limited strictly to discriminatory compensation claims.

At issue in Noel is the scope of the Ledbetter Act, which passed in 2009. The Act says that if an employee is not receiving "equal pay for equal work," as a consequence of an employer's discriminatory employment decision, then each paycheck is a discrete discriminatory action that, in effect, restarts the clock under Title VII's requirement that a complaint be filed within 300 days of a discriminatory act.

Noel began working for Boeing in 1990 as an aircraft mechanic and, after an off-site assignment in 1991, went more than a decade without another off-site assignment. That streak was broken in November 2002, however, when Noel was selected to work on a project in Amarillo, Texas. As a result of the assignment, his pay grade was raised from 7 to 8, and he received a $57 per diem. Two white employees, who Noel says were junior to him, were also sent to Amarillo and were eventually promoted to pay grade 11, which Noel saw as discrimination.

"Noel claimed only that he didn't receive a pay grade promotion that two other white employees received," explains Ken Yerkes, chairman of Barnes & Thornburg's Labor and Employment Law Department. "His claim was that because of not getting promoted, he was paid less, and therefore the court should treat his claim as a compensation claim."

Kayleigh Roberts

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