President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
Four years ago today, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — giving more women the opportunity to challenge pay discrimination in the workplace. That day was incredibly gratifying for me personally, since it meant that no other woman or man would suffer the injustice of learning that they had been paid unfairly for years, and then being told it was simply too late to do anything about it.
Ensuring that women have the tools they need to address pay discrimination is just as important now as it was then. In fact, the wage gap between men and women hasn’t budged in the last ten years, with women still earning 77 cents on average for every dollar earned by the typical man, and that number is worse for women of color. Even a college degree fails to close the gap — a recent AAUW report showed that the wage gap is present at college graduation with women making, on average, 82% of what a man makes.
To commemorate the fourth anniversary of the Fair Pay Act, here are four facts impacting the fight for equal pay for equal work today:
Four: As I said at the Democratic National Convention [video] in September, what a difference four years make! On January 29, 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act — the first law passed during his presidency. The law ensures that everyone who experiences pay discrimination gets their day in court by restarting the time limit to file a claim with each discriminatory paycheck. Read more »
Four years ago today President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law, restoring the law that existed for decades in virtually every region of the country prior to the 5-4 Supreme Court decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. The importance of the Ledbetter Act cannot be overstated – in the last 4 years, workers have once again been able to challenge unfair pay in court and pay discrimination claims around the country have been restored.
But even four years ago at the signing of the bill that bears her name, Lilly Ledbetter said the following: “With this bill in place, we now can move forward to where we all hope to be – improving the law, not just restoring it.” Those words are especially true today. The most recent data shows that woman working full time, year round are paid 77 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts. This is a statistic that is unchanged from not only four years ago, but this gap has remained the same for a decade. For women of color, it’s much worse, with the typical African-American woman paid 64 cents and the typical Latina woman paid 55 cents for every dollar paid to a white, non-Hispanic man. A gap in wages occurs at all education levels, after work experience is taken into account, and it gets worse as women’s careers progress.
If we pair these disturbing statistics with the severe limits to existing laws and policies it is even grimmer. Workers are frequently left in the dark about wage disparities, a problem that is exacerbated by employers that penalize their employees for revealing or discussing wages.In addition, even when women somehow muster enough information to prove discrimination, the remedies are extremely narrow. This means that there are too few incentives for employers to voluntarily comply with the law, and engaging in pay discrimination can be simply an unfortunate “cost” of doing business. Read more »
Lilly Ledbetter, the tireless advocate for equal pay, knows firsthand how wage discrimination affects women and their families. Speaking at the Democratic National Convention last week, she reminded the country of her wage discrimination story. Lilly Ledbetter worked for Goodyear for nearly 20 years before discovering that she’d been paid unfairly, losing out on thousands of dollars over the course of her career there. After securing a jury verdict in her favor, in 2007 the Supreme Court determined that she would never receive the lost wages for all those years of discrimination because she didn’t complain about being paid unfairly in her first six months on the job. Less than two years later her namesake bill was passed, restoring the law to ensure that future workers could challenge their unfair pay. Under the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, the time period for challenging pay discrimination begins with the most recent paycheck that reflects unequal wages.
The data released today show that the typical woman is still paid 77 percent of a man’s wages. And when race and sex are considered together, the gap in earnings for women of color are especially stark: African American women make only 64 percent and Hispanic women make 55 percent when compared to white men. This disappointing news is the sort that should spark policymakers to move forward quickly with additional improvements to the fair pay laws. Yet, opponents of fair pay laws are continuing to attack even the Ledbetter Act. In a recent National Review online piece Carrie Lukas shockingly suggests that women are now worse off because of the Ledbetter Act. Never mind that the Ledbetter Act was passed with bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. And never mind that the cases that have been restored since that Act was passed show that the Ledbetter Act had a critical impact. So, as we are faced with the news of a decade of no progress on the wage gap, what’s quite clear is that we cannot waste time revisiting the merits of the bipartisan Ledbetter Act. Below are just a few of the reasons that it is time to move forward on the next step in achieving fair pay – the Paycheck Fairness Act.
The Ledbetter Act restored longstanding law
The rule outlined in the Ledbetter Act, that as long as employees receive discriminatory paychecks they can continue to challenge wage discrimination, restores prior law to that applied by the EEOC and nine of the twelve federal courts of appeals before the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear. In other words, it put the law back to what everyone thought it was in 2007. With today’s news that the 23 cent wage gap has remained the same over the last decade, there is no doubt that more is required to overcome 10 years of stagnation. And we have yet to move forward with the policies that will actually update the outdated fair pay laws. Read more »
Happy Friday! Welcome to the first of a re-invigorated weekly news and blog round up here on Womenstake. From Fridays here on out, we’ll be sharing with you some links from our partner organizations or to blogs from across the web we think you might find interesting. Sound good? Then let’s get started. Read more »