Who is Lilly Ledbetter, and Why Does She Get an Act?

27 Jan

In 2007, a woman named Lilly Ledbetter saw a lawsuit of hers go to the Supreme Court. According to Congressman Brian Higgins,

Lilly Ledbetter worked for nearly 20 years at a Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. She sued the company after learning that she was paid less then her male counterparts at the facility, despite having more experience than several of them. A jury found that her employer had unlawfully discriminated against her on the basis of sex.

However, the Supreme Court said that Ledbetter had waited too long to sue for pay discrimination, despite the fact that she filed a charge with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission as soon as she received an anonymous note alerting her to pay discrimination.

While Ledbetter filed her charge within 180 days of receiving discriminatory pay, the court ruled that, since Ledbetter did not raise a claim within 180 days of the employer’s decision to pay her less, she could not receive any relief. Under this Supreme Court decision, employees in Ledbetter’s position would be forced to live with discriminatory paychecks for the rest of their careers.

The Lilly Ledbetter Act would reverse the SCOTUS’s decision, and permit aggrieved, discriminated-against plaintiffs to bring an action such as this within 180 days of any improper paycheck.

Higgins explains,

“This decision merely encouraged employers with discriminatory pay practices to continue such practices and keep them hidden from their workers, thereby running out the clock on a worker’s opportunity to challenge them. What we accomplished today was simply returning to the commonsense rule accepted for decades, that every discriminatory paycheck is a violation of the law that restarts the clock for filing a claim.”

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act would apply to workers who file claims of discrimination on the basis of race, sex, color, national origin, religion, age, or disability.

In a country such as this, with a constitution such as ours, the principle of equal pay for equal work by those with equal qualifications and experience is a pretty fundamental one. The Act passed 250-177. Higgins, Hinchey, Massa, and Slaughter voted in favor. Chris Lee voted against. (In 2007, it had passed 225 – 199).

18 Responses to “Who is Lilly Ledbetter, and Why Does She Get an Act?”

  1. Eisenbart January 27, 2009 at 11:08 pm #

    I know the point of this post was just to make Chris Lee look like an idiot but I guess I’m more interested in the case and the implication of The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act on companies.

    I’m not a lawyer and everything I’ve attempted to look up has been clearly wrong or a little complicated and trails off until I can’t follow it any longer. But how does a jury come to the conclusion that she was discriminated against?

    She claims that she was discriminated against over long periods of time by small amounts. And this act is supposed to prevent that. What I am confused is how did they come to this conclusion when everything was based upon evaluations? Did they compare all of the woman at the plant? What if she was just a shitty worker and her pay raises reflected that? I mean there are so many different factors as to why people are paid differently.

    Couldn’t this act also entice a lot of predatory lawsuits against companies as well and encourage a minority in a work place to sue for virtually no reason at all?

  2. STEEL January 27, 2009 at 11:24 pm #

    That decision is so incredibly stupid or the law was stupid. How is it in anyway reasonable for an employee to be held responsible for obtaining secret information from their employer in order to be treated fairly?

    She found out she was being cheated and immediately reported it, she proved her case and was rejected because of an absolutely stupid loop hole which was obviously set up to favor the employer and never be able to sue for compensation.

  3. Mike In WNY January 28, 2009 at 5:37 am #

    Like any law, there are always unintended consequences of legislation. The question is, are we better off with the law or better off without it? On the surface the equal pay statute looks good. Digging below the surface, one can surmise that there will be many instances that an employer is forced to pay out higher wages than justified, causing higher consumer prices for goods and services. It will be cheaper to pay unjustified wages than trying to fight the government to prove lower pay is justified at times.

    Studies have shown that the whole issue of pay disparity is blown out of proportion and relevant facts are often ignored.

    Women are less productive in the workplace than men because of the time they devote to those duties and to domestic chores, according to Block. As evidence for this thesis, he notes that among 18-24 year olds, and workers who have never married, income disparity is virtually non-existent.

    Now for the commonsense part.

    If women were being paid less for the same amount of work, employers would rush to hire them and the profit motive would iron out the gender differential, Block says. That is not an unpersuasive argument, although one to which liberal orthodoxy is unlikely to warm.

  4. Buffalopundit January 28, 2009 at 5:40 am #

    Mike – Lilly Ledbetter took a discrimination case to court and won. Her win was later reversed on the statute of limitations issue the new law will correct. Substantively, she prevailed and met her burden. This law will merely correct a stupid and prejudicial technicality.

  5. Mike In WNY January 28, 2009 at 10:30 am #

    Yes, it was a technicality, however, I don’t think in a free society that it is the function of the courts to dictate employment policies and pay scales on business owners who absorb the financial risks, and rewards, of operating a business. Nobody is forced to take employment anywhere and nobody is stopped from terminating that employment if they can’t negotiate a satisfactory employment agreement. The Courts are far from perfect and have no risk when imposing management decisions.

  6. Buffalopundit January 28, 2009 at 10:35 am #

    The constitution and subsequent legislation prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender, etc.

  7. Byron January 28, 2009 at 10:35 am #

    A much needed corrective to an outrageous Supreme Court decision, and hopefully a precursor of more pro-worker initiatives by Congress and the President.

  8. Ben McD January 28, 2009 at 12:42 pm #

    “The constitution and subsequent legislation prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender, etc.”

    Where in the constitution does it say that?

  9. Byron January 28, 2009 at 12:47 pm #

    Re-read the 3rd, 4th and 5th words of that quote.

  10. Terry January 28, 2009 at 12:47 pm #

    Frankly, it seems to merely legislate the concept of “tolling” in that each and every paycheck, in this case, would be an example of a continued pattern of discrimination…I didn’t read the Supreme Court decision and probably will, but I always tried to plead a “continuing pattern” just to avoid any statute of limitations problems…. Now I guess I don’t have to (but probably will, nonetheless)

  11. Hops January 28, 2009 at 1:11 pm #

    Mike, NO.

  12. Merr January 28, 2009 at 5:44 pm #

    Another perspective on the issue:


  13. Ben McD January 28, 2009 at 10:54 pm #


    Your statement clarifies nothing and my question still stands.

  14. Mike In WNY January 29, 2009 at 2:17 am #

    There is nothing anywhere in the Constitution that specifically bans discrimination based on sexual preference. There is not even a direct ban on discrimination based on race, color, or creed. What we do have are provisions that are often interpreted that way. The 15th and 19th Amendments, which ensured that blacks and women could vote, hint at a policy of non-discrimination, but they are actually quite specific. They only involve suffrage and nothing else. However, the due process clause of the 14th Amendment has been interpreted to mean that discrimination based on traits such as race are a violation of due process and not constitutional (when done by the government or an agent of the government). It is a complex issue. Again, a ban on discrimination based on sexual preference is not a part of the Constitution, but has been extended, to some degree, based on the 14th Amendment by the courts.

    The intent of the Constitution, specifically the intent as laid out in the preamble, would protect the right of business owners to be the sole decision makers as part of the clause “secure the blessings of liberty onto ourselves”.

  15. Buffalopundit January 29, 2009 at 6:10 am #

    Can you cite even one solitary SCOTUS case that lends legal effect to the Constitution’s preamble?

    I could just as easily rattle off the Declaration’s “all men are created equal”, but wouldn’t bother because the Declaration is not an operative legal document.

    But we do have the Civil Rights Act, and at last check, it hasn’t been stricken as unconstitutional.

  16. Byron January 29, 2009 at 8:09 am #

    Ben – your question was a non sequitur – or seemed to me to be one, at least – because BP did not say that the Constitution explicitly forbids gender discrimination; he said the Constitution and subsequent legislation did so.

    If you really want to know what laws were referred to, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (among others) forbids sex discrimination, and it derives its authority from the equal protection and commerce clauses of the Constitution.

    If you only wanted to make the point that the the Constitution doesn’t expressly forbids gender discrimination, my original answer stands.

  17. Mike In WNY January 29, 2009 at 11:51 pm #

    In MARTIN v. HUNTER’S LESSEE, 14 U.S. 304 (1816), the preamble is cited in the Court’s opinion to give meaning to the powers granted in the Constitution.


  1. Political Class Dismissed » Blog Archive » Obama Signs First Piece of Crap Legislation - January 29, 2009

    […] Legislation Written by Ray Roberts on January 29, 2009 – 7:05 pm – Liberals are all in a tizzy, Obama signed the The Lilly Ledbetter Act into law, another step in remaking the world to match […]

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