Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act: Fighting Discrimination in the Workplace
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act fights wage discrimination based on various factors. It allows employees to file cases within 180 days of their last discriminatory paycheck, giving them more time to seek justice.
A law known as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act enhances protections against pay discrimination. It enables individuals facing pay discrimination to seek remedies under federal anti-discrimination laws. The Act applies to cases of discrimination based on various factors such as age, religion, national origin, race, sex, and disability. It was among the first bills signed into law by President Barack Obama and forms part of a collection of federal laws safeguarding workers' rights.
Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and Its Impact
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act passed in 2009, restored protections against pay discrimination removed by the Supreme Court in the 2007 Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. case. This law reinstated equal treatment safeguards for employees, particularly under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and clarified that any unfair payment, even from past decisions, is unlawful. The act honors Lilly Ledbetter, a former manager at a Goodyear plant, who filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) after discovering significant pay disparities.
In 1998, Ledbetter filed an equal-pay lawsuit alleging sex-based pay discrimination under Title VII, and the trial jury awarded her back pay and over $3.3 million in damages. However, the Supreme Court upheld a ruling stating such claims must be filed within 180 days of an employer's decision to pay less, even if the worker learns about it later. As a result, Ledbetter never received any settlement from Goodyear.
Filing a Complaint
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg's dissenting opinion urged Congress to take action, leading to the bill named after Ledbetter. This legislation allows employees to file suit within 180 days after the last pay violation, rather than just after the initial pay disparity. Each paycheck restarts the 180-day countdown to file a claim. If you feel that your pay is lower due to your race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability, you can file a complaint with the EEOC, which is explained on their website.
Pay Discrimination Problems
Pay discrimination is a documented issue, particularly the pay gap between men and women. In 2021, women's annual earnings were 83.7% of men's earnings, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Despite the slogan "Equal Pay for Equal Work" dating back to the 1860s, it wasn't until 1963, with the passage of the Equal Pay Act, that Congress took significant action to address the gender wage gap.
Pay Gap and Salary History Ban
Another practice believed to perpetuate discrimination and the pay gap is prospective employers asking job candidates about their salary history. To tackle this, an increasing number of states and municipalities have taken action. As of February 2022, 21 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico have adopted measures prohibiting employers from asking about salary history.
The effectiveness of these bans is evident. A study conducted by economists at the Boston University School of Law found that under salary history bans, women's pay increased by 8% to 9%, and Black workers' pay rose by 13% to 16%.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act’s Implications
The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act empowers women to challenge pay disparities throughout their careers. They can use their starting salary from up to 8 years ago, if it was discriminatorily low, to contest their current salary, as it directly impacts their pay now. This law allows them to dispute salary discrimination without time limitations, unlike before the Act. Although the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and other policies aim to reduce the gender pay gap, it still exists. This shows that achieving pay equity between men and women in the United States remains unfinished business.
In conclusion, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act has been a significant step toward fighting pay discrimination based on various factors. The Act has empowered employees to seek remedies under federal anti-discrimination laws and has allowed them more time to seek justice. Despite this progress, there is still much work to be done to achieve pay equity between men and women in the United States.