WASHINGTON (Jan. 29, 2009)—A retired Goodyear plant supervisor stood at President Obama's side as he signed an anti-pay discrimination bill named for her.
By a 250-177 vote, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the Senate version of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which changes the wording of pay discrimination statutes to make it easier for women and minorities to sue their employers and sent it to the president.
Ledbetter is a retired supervisor at Goodyear's Gadsden, Ala., facility, who sued her employers when she discovered she was being paid 15 percent less than the lowest-paid male supervisor at the plant. Ledbetter won her original suit in federal district court, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in 2007 that her suit was invalid because it did not come within 180 of her first discriminatory paycheck under the letter of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.
The newly passed bill restates Title VII to make it consistent with Ledbetter's argument that each new paycheck compounds the discrimination.
Labor and women's rights organizations hailed the bill's passage. “President Obama and the Democratic Congress are keeping their pledge to women and all workers to reverse the Supreme Court decision that gutted the right of employees to fight wage discrimination,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority Foundation.
While the United Steelworkers did not issue a formal statement, a USW spokesman said his union supported Ledbetter and worked for passage of the bill.
Business interests, however, said the bill would open up a floodgate of litigation from claims that are years or even decades old. “Goodyear believes the (Ledbetter) law erodes one of the underlying principles of Title VII, which is to encourage individuals to report concerns about discrimination promptly,” Ledbetter's former company said.