McMahon announces support for Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
via press release;
October 30, 2008 – Standing with the next generation of working women at Wagner College, Congressional candidate Michael McMahon today announced his support for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was defeated this year in Congress. The Fair Pay Act, which was drafted in response to a 2007 Supreme Court ruling making it significantly harder for women to sue for pay discrimination, will likely be reintroduced in next year’s Congress. Currently, women make only 77.8 cents to the dollar for men.
“As a father and husband, I think it’s shameful that we haven’t been able to close the gender wage gap. This legislation will go lengths in ensuring that when women face inequality in the workplace, they will be able to fight for and protect their right to fair, equal treatment,” McMahon said.
On May 29, 2007, the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 ruling that made it significantly harder for women and other workers to sue their employers for discrimination in pay. Lilly Ledbetter had been chronically underpaid since she began working for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company in 1979, but did not discover the discrimination until decades later. In March 1998 she inquired into possible discriminatory practices by the company, and filed charges in July.
The Court ruled that since Ledbetter had not filed her charge of pay discrimination within 180 days of her employer’s initial decision to pay her less (dating back to her start of employment), she could not receive any relief. Under longstanding precedent and the interpretation of the EEOC, every paycheck resulting from an earlier discriminatory pay decision is considered a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and other key anti-discrimination statutes. Therefore, as long as a worker files within 180 days of a discriminatory paycheck, their charges are considered as timely. The Court ruling upended that practice, instead restricting workers to file charges within 180 days of the initial discrimination, during which time the discrimination may be difficult or impossible to detect due to the fact that pay discrimination often occurs in small increments over long periods of time, and because the pay information of fellow workers is typically confidential and unavailable for comparison.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act would have changed the law to begin a new 180 day statute of limitations with every paycheck. It would also clarify that, once a worker files a charge, he or she needs not keep filing new charges with each new paycheck.
The legislation is essential to ensure that women are able to protect their right to equal pay for equal work, enshrined in the Equal Pay Act of 1963 which made it illegal to pay men and women different wages for equal work on jobs that require similar skill sets, effort and responsibility under comparable working conditions. Yet, since the Act’s passage forty-five years ago, women’s wages have only progressed from 58.9 cents on the dollar compared to men to 77.8 cents on the dollar – less than a half-cent per year.