Lilly Ledbetter worked at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. from 1979-1998, as a supervisor in the Gadsden, AL plant. She was the only woman supervisor at the time. In 1998, she sued the company for paying her less than her male co-workers for doing the same work. Her case was denied by the Supreme Court majority on a technicality due to an original 180-day statute of limitation for filing an equal pay lawsuit. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the only dissenting opinion. This pay disparity effected not only Ledbetter’s take home pay but the amount of money contributed to her retirement account and social security benefits.
In Justice Bader’s dissent, she wrote:
Initially, Ledbetter’s salary was in line with the salaries of men performing substantially similar work. Over time, however, her pay slipped in comparison to the pay of male area managers with equal or less seniority. By the end of 1997, Ledbetter was the only woman working as an area manager and the pay discrepancy between Ledbetter and her 15 male counterparts was stark: Ledbetter was paid $3,727 per month; the lowest paid male area manager received $4,286 per month, the highest paid, $5,236.
In 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law as an amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Ledbetter Act essentially “resets” this limitation with every paycheck and directly addresses the portion of the law that made Ms. Ledbetter’s original case deniable by all of the Supreme Courts male justices.
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