“We sought justice because equal pay for equal work is an American value.” —Lilly Ledbetter
Signed into law this day in 2009: The LILLY LEDBETTER FAIR PAY ACT, which reaffirms the right of any victim of pay discrimination to challenge any discriminatory paycheck he or she receives, including cases of discrimination based on sex, race, color, national origin, religion, age or disability.
Shortly before she retired from Goodyear, Lilly Ledbetter learned that for nearly two decades she had been making less money than her male counterparts. Although she initially won her lawsuit against Goodyear, the Supreme Court ruled that the company did not owe her anything because more than 180 days had passed since Goodyear first decided to discriminate against her. This ruling profoundly weakened the effectiveness of the Equal Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act. The Lilly Ledbetter law acknowledges that each paycheck is a new incident of discrimination, effectively restoring the ability of people to challenge pay discrimination. Ledbetter worked for 10 years to see the new law into place. She herself, however, will receive no compensation from Goodyear. “Goodyear will never have to pay me what it cheated me out of,” she said. “In fact, I will never see a cent. But with the president’s signature today I have an even richer reward.”
Obama said as he signed the act into law,
“Lilly Ledbetter did not set out to be a trailblazer or a household name. She was just a good hard worker who did her job—and she did it well—for nearly two decades before discovering that for years, she was paid less than her male colleagues for doing the very same work. Over the course of her career, she lost more than $200,000 in salary, and even more in pension and Social Security benefits—losses that she still feels today.
“Now, Lilly could have accepted her lot and moved on.… [b]ut instead, she decided that there was a principle at stake, something worth fighting for. So she set out on a journey that would take more than 10 years, take her all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States, and lead to this day and this bill which will help others get the justice she was denied.”
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