8:50 PM | Posted in ,
Last week, Senator Amy Klobuchar gave a short speech on the floor of the Senate in support of Equal Pay Day and of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court and its right wing leanings have restricted discrimination lawsuits to 180 days after the first date of discrimination.

That is why it is so important that the Senate take up the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act on the floor this week. We must light a candle to the pay discrimination women continue to experience across the country.

This important legislation will reverse a 2007 Supreme Court ruling--Ledbetter v. Goodyear--that significantly limited the rights of individuals to sue for gender-based pay discrimination.

The facts that gave rise to Lilly Ledbetter's case are all too common today. Lilly Ledbetter was a hard worker, working at Goodyear Tire as a manager for 20 years. When she started at Goodyear, all the employees at the manager level started at the same pay. She knew she was getting the same pay as the men did. But early in her tenure as manager, the company went to another system. Payment records were kept confidential, and Lilly did not think to ask what her colleagues were making. She did not think to look at her pay raise and ask if men in the department were getting the same. As the years passed by, the pay differential between what she made and what the male managers were making just kept getting bigger. She only found out about it from an anonymous note from a coworker.

At trial, she was able to prove discrimination. But the company appealed the jury's finding, and the Supreme Court, in a five-to-four decision, decided that Lilly filed her charge too late. Essentially, they read the law to say that she would have had to file it within 180 days of Goodyear making its first discriminatory decision.

Although this decision completely ignores the realities of the workplace--that employee records are kept confidential and that there is no way to know when it starts unless we require women to start the embarrassing practice of asking what men make--we can do what Eleanor Roosevelt says. We can bring the realities to the light. We cannot expect women to challenge practices they do not know are happening, and by passing this law we can start to give women those 4 months back--those extra months it takes to allow them to catch up to their male colleagues.