What is the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act?
The 2009 Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is a law enacted by Congress that has strengthened the protection of workers from wage discrimination. The law allows victims of wage discrimination to request a correction under federal anti-discrimination laws. The law specifies that discrimination based on age, religion, national origin, race, sex and disability will “accumulate” each time the employee receives a pay check deemed to be discriminatory. This is the first bill that President Barack Obama has signed and is one of many federal laws designed to protect the rights of workers.
Key points to remember
- The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 deals with wage discrimination based on age, religion, national origin, race, sex and disability.
- This Fair Wage Law replaced a Supreme Court ruling that cases of wage discrimination must be filed within 180 days of the start of the discrimination.
- The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Play Act effectively resets the clock by saying that wage discrimination cases can be filed within 180 days of the last pay check in which the discrimination occurs.
Understanding the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act restored the protection against wage discrimination that had been removed by the Supreme Court in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. in 2007. It restored previous protections regarding equal treatment of employees, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The 2009 Act clarified that any inequitable payment is illegal, even if it results from ” a compensation decision made in the past.
The law is named in honor of Lilly Ledbetter, former factory manager of the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in Alabama. After Ledbetter discovered that her male peers were receiving significantly higher wages for similar roles, she filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). In 1998 Ledbetter filed an equal pay complaint alleging gender-based wage discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The trial jury awarded him back wages and approximately $ 3.3 million in compensatory and punitive damages.
However, the Supreme Court affirmed a lower court decision that claims such as Ledbetter’s should be filed within 180 days of an employer’s decision to pay a worker less, even if the worker has was informed of the unfair salary only much later. As a result, Ledbetter has never collected any type of settlement from Goodyear.
The move ignited groups of activists who saw the court ruling as a setback for women and civil rights. This led to the creation of a bill called Ledbetter that gives employees the right to complain 180 days after the last wage violation, not just 180 days after the initial wage disparity. Indeed, each pay check restarts the 180-day countdown to file a claim.
The amount paid to women in America in 2019 for every dollar earned by men.
Special circumstances of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act
One area of documented wage discrimination is the wage gap between men and women. In 2019, it was estimated that on average, women are paid only 79 cents for every dollar that men receive for comparable work. The gap widens when looking at wage data for black and Hispanic women, who earn 74 cents on the white male dollar, according to research firm PayScale.
In addition, many experts believe that the practice of potential employers interviewing candidates for salary histories promotes the pay gap. In August 2019, 14 states (and 10 localities) prohibited employers from asking questions about wage history. These are Alabama, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania and from Washington.