President Barack Obama signed a bill on Equal Pay rights on Thursday reversing the current Supreme Court ruling in order to allow women in the labor force and other workers more time to sue for discrimination in pay.
The Fair Pay Act is Obama’s first signed bill in his presidency and is inspired by the case of Lilly Ledbetter who was denied relief from discrimination in her pay. Ledbetter, now 70, worked at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. in Alabama and sued them for the difference of salary between her and her male co-workers who held same jobs. Ledbetter realized this discrimination after working at Goodyear for 19 years and the high court denied her opportunity to fight back because she passed the 180 day period. The law stated that employees can file a claim within 180 days of a company issuing a pay amount that is less than another worker who has the same job.
According to the Census Bureau, women earn about 78 cents for every dollar men earn for holding the same job. Obama signing the bill on equal pay will now give workers 180 more days in addition to the current time period to file discrimination suits. Although Lilly Ledbetter has lost more than $200,000 in pay, she will not be able to take advantage of this new legislation. However, she feels that this bill will give women and other workers an opportunity to reap the benefits and fight for equal pay in the future.
Equal pay has been a long struggle for women and President Obama feels that “in this economy, when so many folks are already working harder for less and struggling to get by, the last thing they can afford is losing part of each month’s paycheck to simple and plain discrimination.”
Of course, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act has its supporters and its opponents. Opponents feel that this equal pay bill will allow more lawsuits and employees will wait longer to file claims hoping for bigger rewards. Supporters of the Fair Pay Act feel that it does not really change the current law and that there are no benefits for employees to wait to file claims.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act will not only help women fight for equal pay, but it will also apply to pay discrimination against race, religion, ethnicity, age, and disability.