Lilly Ledbetter was an area manager for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., by 1997, the only woman in a male-dominated position.
Initially, her salary was similar to that of her male counterparts. By the end of 1997, there was a wide difference, with her being paid $3,727 per month and the men between $4,286 and $5,236. They were performing substantially similar work.
Her claim to address the discrimination went all the way to the Supreme Court. In Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., the Court ruled that employees subject to pay discrimination must file a claim within 180 days of the employer’s original decision to pay them less.
The ruling holds even if the employee continued to receive reduced paychecks and even if the employee did not discover the discriminatory reduction in pay until much later.
Justice Ginsberg’s dissent to the ruling summarizes Ledbetter’s complaint:
Lilly Ledbetter was a supervisor at Goodyear Tire and Rubber’s plant in Gadsden, Alabama, from 1979 until her retirement in 1998. For most of those years, she worked as an area manager, a position largely occupied by men. Initially, Ledbetter’s salary was in line with the salaries of men performing substantially similar work. Over time, however, her pay slipped in comparison to the pay of male area managers with equal or less seniority. By the end of 1997, Ledbetter was the only woman working as an area manager and the pay discrepancy between Ledbetter and her 15 male counterparts was stark: Ledbetter was paid $3,727 per month; the lowest paid male area manager received $4,286 per month, the highest paid, $5,236.
The Fair Pay Act aims to address the discrimimation against employees who have already been discriminated against, allowing them to file a complaint up to 180 days after the discrimination is discovered or 180 days after any discriminatory payment.
The Senate version of the bill is summarized this way:
A bill to amend title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and to modify the operation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, to clarify that a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice that is unlawful under such Acts occurs each time compensation is paid pursuant to the discriminatory compensation decision or other practice, and for other purposes.
The Act will allow victims of pay discrimination to challenge the inequities of unequal pay. It is expected to come up for a final vote this week and to be sent to The President.