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.