More from the Independent Women’s Forum

Independent Womens Forum – A Bargain At 77 Cents To a Dollar

(The name of this organization is misleading. Read their words very carefully. See my earlier post at https://wsliblog.wordpress.com/2008/02/10/ )

When women realize that it isn’t systemic bias but the choices they make that determine their earnings, they can make better-informed decisions. Many women may not want to follow the path toward higher pay — which often requires more time on the road, more hours in the office or less comfortable and less interesting work — but they’re better off not feeling like victims.

This snippet of a larger essay published by the Washington Post was written by Carrie L. Lukas, vice president for policy and economics at the Independent Women’s Forum and the author of “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Women, Sex, and Feminism.”

As we approach the Equal Pay date of April 22, I’m sure many more pieces will be out there for our pleasure reading. There’s Hilary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi — look at them. What is our problem???

But folks who don’t have their heads in the sand know there’s more to this than “choice”. Lilly Ledbetter was a manager at Goodyear. The only female supervisor in her department. She learned very late in her career that men in her same position were making much higher salaries than she. She took Goodyear to court and though the company tried its best to prove that she did not receive equivalent raises to the men because of poor evaluations of her work, she proved otherwise to the jury and was awarded a sum plus damages. Through appeal, a higher court reversed the decision. Ledbetter then appealed to the US Supreme Court who decided to hear the case. They sided with Goodyear stating that Ledbetter did not file her suit in the time allowed “after the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred” < Over Ginsburg’s Dissent, Court Limits Bias Suits > under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which is 180 days.

Pay inequity is a long term issue, not like proving a firing or demotion was based on discrimination. Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg provided a searing dissent to the 5-4 decision. Clearly she understands the issues as she stated:

“In our view, the court does not comprehend, or is indifferent to, the insidious way in which women can be victims of pay discrimination,” she said.


In a speech given in October, 2007, she further clarifies the broader implications of the decision:

I turn now to another genre of dissent, one aiming to attract immediate public attention and to propel legislative change. My example is the second dissent I read from the bench last term. The case involved a woman, Lilly Ledbetter, who worked as an area manager at a Goodyear tire plant in Alabama – in 1997, the only woman in Goodyear to hold such a post. Her starting salary (in 1979) was in line with the salaries of men performing similar work. But over time, her pay slipped. By the end of 1997, there was a 15 to 40 percent disparity between Ledbetter’s pay and the salaries of her fifteen male counterparts. A federal jury found it “more likely than not that [Goodyear] paid [Ledbetter] a[n] unequal salary because of her sex.” The Supreme Court nullified that verdict, holding that Ledbetter filed her claim too late.

It was incumbent on Ledbetter, the Court said, to file charges of discrimination each time Goodyear failed to increase her salary commensurate with the salaries of her male peers. Any annual pay decision not contested promptly (within 180 days), the Court ruled, became grandfathered, beyond the province of Title VII (our principal law outlawing employment discrimination) ever to repair.

The Court’s ruling, I observed for the dissenters, ignored real-world employment practices that Title VII was meant to govern: “Sue early on,” the majority counseled, when it is uncertain whether discrimination accounts for the pay disparity you are beginning to experience, and when you may not know that men are receiving more for the same work. (Of course, you will likely lose such a less-than-fully baked case.) If you sue only when the pay disparity becomes steady and large enough to enable you to mount a winnable case, you will be cut off at the court’s threshold for suing too late. That situation, I urged, could not be what Congress intended when, in Title VII, it outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin in our Nation’s workplaces.

Several members of Congress responded within days after the Court’s decision issued. A corrective measure passed the House on July 31, 2007. Senator Kennedy introduced a parallel bill, with 21 co-sponsors. The response was just what I contemplated when I wrote: “The ball is in Congress’ court . . . . to correct [the Supreme] Court’s parsimonious reading of Title VII.” But the fate of the proposed legislation has been clouded. On July 27, the Administration announced that if the measure “were presented to the President, his senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.”

Pay inequity is insidious as Ginsburg states — hidden and harmful. If the majority of Supreme Court members will not take up the battle, we need to make our voices heard.

Here’s a brief that was submitted to the Supreme Court in the Ledbetter and pay discrimination. It very clearly states the harm of pay inequity. Please consider spreading the word, writing your newspaper or contacting your congressperson on this important issue.

BRIEF OF THE NATIONAL PARTNERSHIP FOR WOMEN & FAMILIES ET AL. AS AMICI CURIAE IN SUPPORT OF PETITIONER

The Eleventh Circuit’s ruling ignores these realities of pay discrimination. Unlike a discriminatory termination, the deci- sion to pay a woman a lower salary because of sex is not a time-limited act that is severable from the paychecks that implement that decision. When an employee is fired for a discriminatory reason, the firing will undoubtedly have a pro- longed negative effect on the employee. But the discrim- ination itself has concluded, and the time to complain begins to run. Morgan, 536 U.S. at 112-13. Not so for pay dis- crimination. Rather than being able to begin the process of recovery, a victim of pay discrimination continues to experience the discrimination, not just its effects, with each new paycheck. As the time from the original discriminatory decision grows more distant, the discrimination deficit grows larger. The original decision to pay a woman less because of her sex is, in effect, a policy of discrimination that is carried out paycheck by paycheck, each one of which contains less money for an illegal reason. Left uncorrected, each sub- sequent paycheck implements the discriminatory decision and brings it to bear anew on the employee.

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