Thursday, January 22, 2009

Rock On, Lilly Ledbetter.

(Or Tracy gets her nerdy political geek on.)

Tonight, the Senate, led by the formidable Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), passed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. The House is expected to pass the bill next Tuesday, and President Obama has promised to sign it into law.

Lilly Ledbetter was, for 19 years, the lone female supervisor at a Goodyear tire plant in Alabama. That's right--19 years. Shortly before she retired in 1998, she found out that she was being paid thousands of dollars less than her male colleagues in the same positions, including those who'd been hired after her. She filed a lawsuit immediately after she received an anonymous note upon learning that lovely fact, and a jury agreed that this was an egregious case of sexist mouthbreathers keeping a good woman down--they awarded her $3 million. Goodyear appealed the case up to the Supreme Court, which ruled 5 to 4 in 2007 that Ledbetter shouldn't have been able to file her case more than 180 days after "a specific discriminatory event."

Nine of the 12 federal courts that heard this case as it was making its way to the Big Nine said that each crappy-ass paycheck Ledbetter received should be considered "a specific discriminatory event"--and so her case was well within the statute of limitations instituted by a previous law.

With women STILL making 77 cents for every dollar a man makes doing the same job, this vote is massive for working women across the country. The Institute of Women’s Policy Research says that this discrepancy will cost women anywhere from $400,000 to $2 million in lost wages over a lifetime.

The House is expected to sign the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law on Tuesday, and since President Obama argued hard for the 2007 version that got voted down in the Senate, it's pretty clear Lilly Ledbetter has won a massive victory for women everywhere. And actually, even more people: the new law should also help American workers pursue claims of pay discrimination on the basis of not only gender, but race, religion, national origin, disability, or age. I haven't found any claims that it will help with discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but I hope so.

So, please join with me in sending a big mental "suck it" to Goodyear, Justice Roberts (who authored the Court's decision on the Ledbetter case), and everyone who puts corporate greed over the basic rights of hardworking people--who need fairness more than ever in this economic crisis.

Done now. I'll be funny again next time. (At least on my planet. Can't promise that on yours.)

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Tracy Montoya writes romantic suspense for Harlequin Intrigue.

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