House Says Yes to Women’s Wage Equity, Passes Ledbetter Act!


In the spring of 2007, the Supreme Court told Lilly Ledbetter, a twenty-year employee of Goodyear Tire in Alabama, that if she wanted to take legal action against the wage discrimination she had suffered, she should have filed a complaint within 180 days of the first discriminatory paycheck she received.  Since she hadn’t, she had no standing to recover decades of lost wages.  The Supreme Court did not make it clear how Ledbetter was supposed to have known that she was being discriminated against after only 180 days on the job, seeing that Goodyear forbade employees from discussing their salaries, and Ledbetter only found out years later, thanks to an anonymous note. 

Today Congress took a step toward correcting that injustice.  The House passed both the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act, restoring and establishing basic protections for employees who are subject to wage discrimination.  The Ledbetter Act repeals the 180 day requirement, while the Paycheck Fairness Act protects employees from retaliation by employers if they bring complaints and allows them to sue for compensatory and punitive damages.  With news today that unemployment this month has hit 7.2%, a 16-year high, any protections for workers are welcome.

The Senate is expected to take up the equal pay legislation next week.  House supporters of the legislation predicted that it could be among the first bills President-elect Obama signs into law.

Tell the Senate to vote yes on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act! Add your voice to the National Partnership for Women & Families letter-writing campaign.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

To schedule an interview with Emily Douglas please contact Communications Director Rachel Perrone at rachel@rhrealitycheck.org.

  • invalid-0

    In the spring of 2007, the Supreme Court told Lilly Ledbetter, a twenty-year employee of Goodyear Tire in Alabama, that if she wanted to take legal action against the wage discrimination she had suffered, she should have filed a complaint within 180 days of the first discriminatory paycheck she received.

    Have you actually read the court’s holding in this case? Because that’s not what it said.

    The Supreme Court did not make it clear how Ledbetter was supposed to have known that she was being discriminated against after only 180 days on the job,

    Of course it didn’t. That wasn’t the question before the court.

    BTW, do you think this legislation will make employers apt to hire more or fewer women?

  • invalid-0

    CTD only says, “That’s not what it said”, and not a word about what it allegedly said. CTD is DEAD WRONG! The 180-day limit even in the face of employers’ forbidding discussion of salary was exactly what the Ledbetter ruling was.

    CTD, go back to watching O’Liely; you don’t know what you’re talking about.

  • invalid-0

    So, is this a (veiled) threat? Don’t complain about getting discriminated against by your employer or else less women will be hired? Employers cannot discriminated legally against women in hiring anyway! We are responsible for our employer discriminating against us because we speak out????? Are we slaves? Employers may or may not be apt to hire more or fewer women. I don’t care what employers are “apt” to do. I care what they do. If they discriminate against me in wages based on my sex, I now can sue them without considering if it occurred within the first 180 days of my being hired – once this law is passed. We are moving away from the era in which employers could freely discriminate against women. Its a baby step in a long, long journey. Toward justice.

  • invalid-0

    Is the Ledbetter Law about all discrimination, or just against women? I can’t figure out what it really does. It sounds like the law may be so vague that the Senate may not support it.

  • invalid-0

    I ask again, have you actually read the court’s holding in the case?

    It’s rather strange to be accused of being “wrong” or lying about a court holding that nobody here, the original poster included, seems to have read.

    The court held that because, as Ledbetter acknowledged, the illegal employment practices with discriminatory intent occurred more than 180 days before she filed her suit, the governing statute was not applicable to her case.

    Ledbetter did not claim, and presented no evidence that the issuance of lower paychecks within the 180 day charge period, were, unto themselves, acts made with discriminatory intent. Many people seem to be ascribing to the plaintiff an argument that she never made, probably because it would have been exceedingly difficult to prove discriminatory intent in each and every issuance of a paycheck.

  • emily-douglas

    Sg – The Ledbetter law will indeed apply for all acts of discrimination prohibited by Title VII, not just discrimination against women.

    CTD – from a fact sheet on the case by the National Women’s Law Center: “The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed the jury verdict, holding that her case
    was filed too late – even though Ms. Ledbetter continued to receive discriminatory pay – because
    the company’s original decision on her pay had been made years earlier. In a 5-4 decision
    authored by Justice Alito, the Supreme Court upheld the Eleventh Circuit decision and ruled that
    employees cannot challenge ongoing pay discrimination if the employer’s original
    discriminatory pay decision occurred outside of the statute of limitations period, even when the
    employee continues to receive paychecks that have been discriminatorily reduced.” … “The Ledbetter decision upsets longstanding precedent. Under Title VII, an employee
    has 180 days after a discriminatory act, such as a firing or demotion, to file a
    discrimination claim. Before the Ledbetter decision, if an employee brought a claim for
    pay discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability, both the EEOC and nine of the ten courts of appeals to consider the issue
    applied what is known as the “paycheck accrual rule.” Under this longstanding rule, each
    new paycheck was treated as a separate discriminatory act that started a new 180-day
    clock. By holding instead that all charges of pay discrimination must be filed within 180
    days of the employer’s original discriminatory decision, the Supreme Court reversed this
    accepted practice and left victims of pay discrimination with no recourse against pay
    discrimination they don’t immediately challenge.”
    http://www.nwlc.org/pdf/Broad_Ledbetter_Fact_Sheet_111008.pdf

    • invalid-0

      While I’m sure the “National Women’s Law Center” is a fine organization with many opinions on legal matters, I urge you once again to read the court’s actual holding in the case.

      [The court] ruled that employees cannot challenge ongoing pay discrimination if the employer’s original discriminatory pay decision occurred outside of the statute of limitations period, even when the employee continues to receive paychecks that have been discriminatorily reduced.

      This is simply not true. Ledbetter did not claim, and introduced no evidence that the paychecks she received within the 180 charge period were illegal employment practices (discriminatory acts)under Title VII. Her claim was that they were the effects of discrimination that took place long before.

      The court did not say that people “cannot challenge ongoing pay discrimination if the employer’s original discriminatory pay decision occurred outside of the statute of limitations period.” The only thing that matters is that the act made with discriminatory intent falls within the charge period. It doesn’t matter if it’s the first discriminatory decision or the 15th. Ledbetter could have alleged that the paychecks she received during the designated charge period were made with discriminatory intent, but she didn’t.

      As the court said:

      [I]f an employer engages in a series of separately actionable intentionally discriminatory acts, then a fresh violation takes place when each act is committed. Ledbetter makes no claim that intentionally discriminatory conduct occurred during the charging period or that discriminatory decisions occurring before that period were not communicated to her. — (Em. mine)

      As I said before, people are ascribing arguments and evidence to Ledbetter that she never offered to any court.

      Full text of the decision here. Please take the time to read it: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/05-1074.ZS.html

  • invalid-0

    Can anyone explain to me how the Lily Ledbetter law would affect a situation in subject column? Does a woman have any rights in this day and time?