THE SOONER THE LEDBETTER In January of 2009, newly elected President Barack Obama signed his first piece of legislation into law. The Lilly Ledbetter Act amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Ledbetter states that the 180-day statute of limitations for filing an equal-pay lawsuit regarding pay discrimination resets with each new paycheck affected by that discriminatory action. This was enacted as a direct result of a United States Supreme Court ruling in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 550 U.S. 618 (2007), in which the court ruled in favor of Goodyear stating that the statute of limitations for presenting an equal-pay lawsuit begins on the date that the employer makes the initial discriminatory wage decision, not at the date of the most recent paycheck.(Wikipedia, Web) There was an earlier version of the act during the 110th United States Congress of the same name that attempted to repudiate the Ledbetter decision that was not enacted, having passed the House but failing in the Senate. Shortly after the United States Supreme Court’s decision, House Democrats moved for legislation to overturn the initial ruling. This topic was a hot topic for the 2008 Presidential Election, with Republican Senator John McCain opposing it and Democratic Senator Barack Obama supporting it. Ledbetter was eventually passed by the 111th United States Congress with the blessing of the following organizations: American Civil Liberties Union, AFL-CIO, American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, American Rights at Work, American Library Association, People For the American Way, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, National Employment Lawyers Association, Hadassah, National Women's Law Center, National Network to End Domestic Violence, Center for Inquiry - Washington DC American Association of University Women, Alliance for Justice, Legal Momentum, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, National Partnership for Women and Families, Coalition of Labor Union Women, Moms Rising, National Organization for Women, American Association of Retired Persons, Women's Voices, Women Vote Action Fund, 21st Century Democrats, 9to5, National Association of Working Women, Service Employees International Union, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, and Women Employed. (Wikipedia, Web) There was obviously some criticism of the Act as you can imagine, especially from the right and their constituents. Groups that opposed the act include: U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Eagle Forum, Society for Human Resource Management, National Association of Manufacturers, American Bankers Association, College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, Associated Builders and Contractors, and American Hotel & Lodging Association. (Wikipedia, Web) This Act is an important tool for people who are in the work force who believe that they have been unfairly discriminated against. It was a big victory for the worker against big corporations and business because it lengthens the time that a suit can be brought against them.
In 1998, after Lilly Ledbetter had spent 19 years as an employee working at a Goodyear plant in Alabama, she received an anonymous tip delivered to her company mailbox showing that she made 40% less than her male counterparts. Ledbetter who was hired as a supervisor for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co in 1979, through this anonymous memo she came to the realization that here salary of $44,000 annually was not competitive with that of her male counterparts within the organization. Lilly Ledbetter fought for ten years to close the gap between women’s and men’s wages, lobbying Capitol Hill and filing in a historic discrimination case against Goodyear. In 2003, she initially won her case against Goodyear and was awarded $3.8 million in damages that were reduced to $3.5 million by the judge in the case. This decision was appealed by Goodyear and eventually