The Civil Rights Act of 2008

Introduced in early 2008 by Sens. Kennedy and Clinton, the Civil Rights Act of 2008, adds and update important provisions with the aim of protecting the rights of American workers. The bill passed through the House of Representatives, only to get stalled in the Senate. However, with the Democratic majority expanding in the last election, coupled with the election of Barack Obama, the Civil Rights Act of 2008 may see the light of day in the new administration.

Many of these provisions are designed at protecting the rights of employees. One of the provisions is to amend the Equal Pay Act which would increase the penalties for sexual discrimination in the work place, as well as put the burden of proof on the employee that pay discrimination was the result of a definitive cause other than sex. This marks progress in the decades old fight against unequal pay for men and women.

Another important change is a removal of the damage caps from the 1991 Americans With Disabilities Act. Currently, the ADA sets a maximum level of compensatory damages at $50,000 for small employers and $300,000 for large employers. This means that individuals who have been discriminated under the ADA are not limited, and can pursue larger claims.

One other change considered is to modify the Immigration and Nationality Act. This act aims to make it illegal to withhold back pay for unlawful employment practices against illegal or undocumented worker. This would provide these vulnerable workers with important protections against being abused and taken advantage of.

As we move towards Obama’s January inauguration, hopefully we will see the Civil Rights Act of 2008 and other pro-worker legislation come enacted in law. After eight years of the pro-business Bush administration, there is much work to be done to shore workers rights.