Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act

Equal Pay For Women

Background

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 is federal statute in the United States that was the first bill signed into law by President Barack Obama on January 29, 2009. The Act amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Act reinstates prior law and makes clear that pay discrimination claims on the basis of sex, race, national origin, age, religion and disability “accrue” whenever an employee receives a discriminatory paycheck, as well as when a discriminatory pay decision or practice is adopted, when a person becomes subject to the decision or practice, or when a person is otherwise affected by the decision or practice.
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Step 1: Recognizing the Problem

The motive behind the Fair Pay Act of 2009 was to eliminate the wage gap between men and women. Women today are paid, on average, only 77 cents for every dollar paid to men. And the gap is even worse for women of color - African American women earn only 64 cents and Latina women earn only 55 cents for each dollar earned by males. Lilly Ledbetter worked as a supervisor at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. No one was allowed to discuss their pay, so she did not think she was being paid any differently than her male equals. She received an anonymous note with the salaries of three male managers and found that she was receiving a lot less money for the same work as them. She took the case to court and the court ruled that employees cannot challenge ongoing pay discrimination if the employer’s original discriminatory pay decision occurred more than 180 days earlier, even when the employee continues to receive paychecks that have been discriminatorily reduced. This decision upset longstanding precedent under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other important civil rights statutes. It also undermined the Congressional goal of eliminating discrimination in the workplace and let unequal pay continue. It was up to congress from there to fix the problem.
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Step 2: Formulating the Policy

Among the first to criticize the Court's decision that Ledbetter's complaint was time-barred was Marcia Greenberger, president of the National Women's Law Center, that saw in the ruling a "setback for women and a setback for civil rights." Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, also condemned the decision, saying, “If employers can keep the discrimination hidden for a period of time, they can continue to discriminate without being held accountable.” Ledbetter got help from both the National Partnership for Women and Families and the National Women's Law Center to get national attention. The House Democrats were fast to react, coming out on June 12 against the Supreme Court. They also invited the Congress to take action by amending the law.
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Step 3: Adopting the Policy

Congress acted quickly to fix the decision of the circuit court. In less than two years after the case against Goodyear both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. It was one of the first pieces of legislation that Obama signed after coming into office. The Act restores longstanding law and helps to ensure that individuals subjected to unlawful pay discrimination are able to effectively assert their rights under the federal anti-discrimination laws. It also resets the 180 day limit to file a claim for a discriminatory paycheck.
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Step 4: Implementing the Policy

The Department of labor is in charge of enforcing the act. Employers will have a strong incentive to eliminate any discriminatory compensation practices because they will continue to be on the hook for discriminatory pay practices. The Act also eliminates the incentive created by the Ledbetter decision for employers to hide discrimination. The Act enables individuals to challenge continuing pay discrimination, ensuring both that employees are not penalized if they are initially unaware of the discrimination and that they remain able to challenge pay discrimination that is compounded by raises, pensions, and other contributions over time.
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Step 5: Evaluating the Policy

Not much has changed since the Lilly Ledbetter Act was put in place. Women are still paid 77 cents for every man's dollar. It hasn’t improved one bit since then. There hasn’t been a decrease in the gap since 2007, and it actually widened a bit in the years after the act was signed. Currently, about half of all workers are either banned or discouraged from discussing pay with each other. That presents a huge barrier for those who suspect they may be unfairly paid less. If workers cannot talk about their salaries then men and women would not know that they are being paid unfairly or not. There would be a way that President Obama could help to fix this problem. He could issue an executive order to ban federal contractors from retaliating against workers who share information on pay with each other. The order would impact 26 million workers, or 22 percent of the workforce.