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The Fight for Equal Pay Continues

Lilly Ledbetter, the woman who fought to change federal law regarding pay discrimination based on gender continues to expand her cause. Ms. Ledbetter believes the persistent wage difference between men and women is a human rights issue.

Ledbetter worked at a Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company plant as a supervisor in Alabama. After discovering that she earned between $1,500 and $500 less per month than her male counterparts, she sued the company for discrimination in 1998. The jury from the trial court level ruled in her favor; however, the United States Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision ruled against her. The issue decided by the Supreme Court was whether Ledbetter was within the 180 day statute of limitations to bring an equal-pay lawsuit. The trial court ruled the time period to bring the suit within starts at the date of the most recent paycheck. The Supreme Court disagreed and ruled the date begins when the pay was agreed upon.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 was signed into law on January 29, 2009 overturning the Supreme Court decision. The Act states the 180 day time period to bring a suit for unequal pay resets with each new paycheck.

Ledbetter is now advocating for another act. The act is called the Paycheck Fairness Act. It would protect the sharing of salary information among employees and would require employers to demonstrate the pay difference among employees is job related and not based on gender.

Women earn about 81 percent of what men make according to federal studies. Regarding the issue Ledbetter stated, "[Fair pay] is a matter that should just be a human right, to treat people equally and fair with their pay."

Source: The Associated Press, "Woman Who Changed Federal Law Promotes Equal Pay" Cristina Silva, 10/1/10