10:32 PM | Posted in ,
Senator Klobuchar took to the floor of the United States Senate to voice her support for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act. The bill is a reaction to a Supreme Court ruling that there are time limits on pay discrimination lawsuits. For more information, you can visit the National Organization of Women background info page.

It is a sad reality that--88 years after the 19th amendment gave women equal voting power, and 45 years after the passage of the Equal Pay Act--it still takes women 16 months to earn what men can earn in 12 months.

When I travel around my State and talk to the women in my State, I find these women are not simply looking for a handout or preferential treatment. All they are asking for is a fair and equal chance to make a fair and decent living. That is why it is so important the Senate take up the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act on the Senate floor this week.

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

discrimination. The facts that gave rise to Lilly Ledbetter's case have been told, but I think they should be told again. She was a hard worker. People can picture her right now. I have met her many times. She is a delightful person. She worked at Goodyear Tire as a manager for 20 years.

When she started, all the employees at the manager level started at the same pay. She knew she was getting the same pay as the men doing the same job. But early in her tenure as manager, the company went to a ``merit-based'' pay system.

Payment records were kept confidential, as they are in many companies, and Lilly did not think to ask what her male colleagues were making. She was happy to be a manager. She did not think to look at her pay raise and to ask if the men in the department were getting the same pay the day the paychecks came out. I do not think many people think about running around and asking their colleagues if they are getting the same amount of money for the same work.

As the years passed by, the pay differential between what she made and what the male managers were making just kept getting bigger. It was only after getting an anonymous note from a coworker telling her she was not paid as much as the male managers that she finally realized what was happening. Soon after getting that note, she filed a legal complaint. But that was many years after the discrimination began.

At trial, Lilly Ledbetter was easily able to prove discrimination. She could show what she did, she could show what the men did, and she could show the difference in pay. In fact, the jury found that sex discrimination accounted for a pay differential of as great as 25 percent between Lilly and her male counterparts. You can think about how that adds up over 20 years of working.

However, Goodyear appealed the jury's ruling, and the Supreme Court, in a 5-to-4 decision, decided that Lilly filed her case too late. Essentially, they ruled she would have had to have filed within 180 days of Goodyear making its first discriminatory act.

Now, you ask, how would she have known this unless she was nosey and going around trying to look at people's paychecks? But this, as absurd as it sounds, is what the Court said.

Although the Court's decision completely ignores the realities of the workplace--that employee records are confidential and there is no reasonable way to know when discrimination starts--we now have an opportunity to bring the realities to light.

We should pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and allow a claim to be filed as long as the paychecks reflecting discrimination continue to be issued. In doing so, we will restore the original intent of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act.