Finance Globe

U.S. financial and economic topics from several finance writers.
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The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009

President Obama signed his first piece of legislation today, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.

President Obama opened with, "Well, this is a wonderful day. First of all, it is fitting that the very first bill that I sign -- the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act -- that it is upholding one of this nation's founding principles: that we are all created equal, and each deserve a chance to pursue our own version of happiness."

The new law expands the amount of time that an employee can sue for pay discrimination, and states that the 180 day statute of limitations for pay discrimination resets with each new discriminatory paycheck.

The Fair Pay Act nullifies a U.S. Supreme Court decision that the statute of limitations begins the date the discriminatory pay was first agreed upon.

President Obama said, "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..."

Lilly Ledbetter started working at Goodyear Tire & Rubber in Gadsen, Alabama in 1979. She worked there for nearly two decades before she found out that she was paid less than all male co-workers for doing the same work.

Over the course of her employment, the pay discrimination cost her over $200,000 in lost wages - and even more in pension and social security benefits.

Her legal battle for fair pay began in July 1998 when she filed formal charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

That November, after taking an early retirement, Ledbetter sued Goodyear, claiming pay discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963. A jury awarded Mrs. Ledbetter over $3 million in back-pay and punitive damages.

Goodyear appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court. In May 2007, the court ruled against Ledbetter's claim that the statue of limitations should reset with each discriminatory paycheck, canceling the money Mrs. Ledbetter was awarded by the lower court.

Critics of the Supreme Court's ruling said that all an employer has to do to avoid charges is hide the pay discrimination until the statute of limitations is up. And since employees are often discouraged from discussing wages with other employees, this really isn't very hard to do.

In response to the Supreme Court ruling, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act was first introduced in 2007. It was defeated by Republicans in the Senate who said the bill would increase the likeliness of frivolous lawsuits.

The bill became an issue in the 2008 Presidential Campaign, with Obama for it and McCain against it. The bill was reintroduced in January 2009.

President Obama said of Mrs. Ledbetter's ordeal, "... Lilly knows that this story isn't just about her. It's the story of women across this country still earning just 78 cents for every dollar men earn -- women of color even less -- which means that today, in the year 2009, countless women are still losing thousands of dollars in salary, income and retirement savings over the course of a lifetime."

President Obama said that it was not just a women's issue, but a family issue. "And in this economy, when so many folks are already working harder for less and struggling to get by, the last thing they can afford is losing part of each month's paycheck to simple and plain discrimination."

"So signing this bill today is to send a clear message: that making our economy work means making sure it works for everybody; that there are no second-class citizens in our workplaces; and that it's not just unfair and illegal, it's bad for business to pay somebody less because of their gender or their age or their race or their ethnicity, religion or disability; and that justice isn't about some abstract legal theory, or footnote in a casebook. It's about how our laws affect the daily lives and the daily realities of people: their ability to make a living and care for their families and achieve their goals," Obama said.

First Lady Michelle Obama, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the new law's namesake Lilly Ledbetter attended the signing.

Mrs. Ledbetter said, "Goodyear will never have to pay me what it cheated me out of. In fact, I will never see a cent from my case. But with the passage and President's signature today, I have an even richer reward. I know that my daughter and granddaughters, and your daughters and your granddaughters, will have a better deal. That's what makes this fight worth fighting. That's what made this fight one we had to win. And now with this win we will make a big difference in the real world."

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Thursday, 25 April 2024

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