Lilly Ledbetter, the woman who helped change federal equal wage and hour law, believes the difference in wages earned for the same position between men and women is a human rights issue. She recently encouraged Congress to pass an equal pay bill that was coming before a vote in the Senate.
Ledbetter is responsible for a historic piece of equal pay legislature. Ms. Ledbetter worked as a production supervisor for Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company at the company’s tire factory in Alabama. In comparison to her male counterparts, she earned between $1,500 to $500 less per month for the same position.
Ms. Ledbetter sued under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and under the Equal Pay Act. The issue in her case was whether the 180 day statutory time period to bring suit began when the company decided Ms. Ledbetter’s salary or upon receipt of each her paychecks. The trial court found in her favor but the United States Supreme Court ruled against her in a 5-4 decision. Congress amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to allow the 180 day statutory time period to file a pay discrimination lawsuit to reset with each new discriminatory paycheck.
Lilly is now fighting for the Paycheck Fairness Act. The proposed Act would protect employees who share salary information with their fellow employees and would require employers to demonstrate that any difference in pay among employees is job-based not gender-based. Women still earn only 81 percent of what men earn. Ledbetter believes women will continue to earn less than men unless companies are forced to change.
Source: The Associated Press, “Woman Who Changed Federal Law Promotes Equal Pay,” Christina Silva, 10/1/10