Sisters, rejoice! On January 29, 2009, the first bill President Obama signed into law will help women hold employers accountable for paying women less than men for equivalent jobs. The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act lifts time restraints on lawsuits, which could expire before workers realize they were treated unfairly. It will help eliminate the 23 percent wage gap women face, helping families in these tough economic times.
However, do not be lulled into a false security, this is just the first step. We now need to guarantee that once women challenge pay discrimination, they have the necessary tools and legal support to prove their cases beyond a reasonable doubt and hold their employers accountable.
The Ledbetter Act was drafted to overturn the Supreme Court’s May 2007 decision in the case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., which would have prevented underpaid workers’ to use the protections of civil rights laws to remedy pay discrimination.
Lilly Ledbetter had worked at Goodyear for 19 years when she discovered she was being paid significantly less than every single one of her male counterparts. A jury agreed that she had been paid unfairly, and awarded her $223,776 in back pay, and over $3 million in punitive damages. However, a judge cut that to $300,000 because of a 1991 law that limited a company’s liability for damages — even when found guilty of willful wage discrimination.
What ensued was an egregious miscarriage of justice. The U.S. Supreme Court rescinded every penny of the back pay and damages awarded to Ms. Ledbetter, citing the 180 day filing limit had begun way back when the very first paycheck showed lesser pay.
Learn more about Lilly Ledbetter