The letter of the law was upheld when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled May 29 that Goodyear didn't discriminate against a long-time female employee who received much less pay than her male co-workers.
Justice, however, wasn't served.
The high court's 5-4 ruling in the case involving a retired supervisor at Goodyear's Gadsden, Ala., plant exposed flaws in the American legal system. A court packed with ideologues, in this instance rigid conservatives, took a narrow interpretation of a law intended to protect people, not companies.
The facts of the case are quite clear.
Lilly M. Ledbetter was a supervisor at the Gadsden factory, working for the tire maker for nearly two decades. When she began her career, she received the same pay as her male counterparts. But by the time she retired, her earnings were $550 to $1,550 a month less than the men.
That also meant her retirement benefits would be reduced.
Ledbetter sued, and the case worked its way up to the Supreme Court.
The majority opinion, written by recent appointee Samuel Alito, ruled the plaintiff had to file within 180 days of the discriminatory act to qualify as sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. She didn't, and the five conservatives ruled against her.
The high court ignored the spirit of the law in its decision. Beyond that, it also turned a blind eye toward the reality of the workplace.
Discrimination, especially concerning pay, doesn't happen overnight. It builds over time, with every paycheck, and the victim may never even know it is occurring. In most companies, discussion of pay by salaried staff is frowned upon.
The 180-day deadline is arbitrary and justices interested in justice could have disregarded it, as the court has done so many times in the past. Already members of Congress are making noise about changing the law to overrule the court's interpretation.
For this case, though, there's no appeal: Goodyear has won. However, the company, and especially the court, didn't win the moral and ethical high ground.