Monday, April 21, 2008

Equality and Equal Pay

What? You made it all the way through Friday, Blog for Fair Pay Day, without sending a letter to your senator demanding that she or he vote to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act? Yeah, so did I. What can I say, I was seduced by Creature Comforts. But, I'll do it now, and so should you.

Click right here to urge Congress to ensure that women get fairly compensated for the work we do, and that we can sue the pants off sexist employers when we are paid less because of our gender.

Just to remind you of why this is important to all of us, consider these statistics:
-Women working full-time, year-round earn only about 77 cents for every dollar earned by men...

-Minority women fare significantly worse... [A]n African American woman earned just 63 cents for every dollar earned by a white, non-Hispanic man, while a Hispanic woman earned only 52 cents on the dollar compared to her white, non-Hispanic male counterpart...

-An earnings gap exists between women and men across a wide spectrum of occupations. In 2006, for example, the median weekly wages earned by women physicians were just 72% of the median weekly wages of male physicians. Women in sales and sales-related occupations earned only about 64% of the median weekly wages of men in equivalent positions...

-The earnings gap between women and men also persists across all educational levels. While education lifts all boats, it lifts men’s boats much higher than women’s. For example, in 2006 among workers 25 years of age and older with some high school education, women’s median annual earnings were $15,162, compared to $24,092 for men. Graduation from high school boosted women’s median earnings to $21,609, yet the same high school degree yielded $33,074 for men. Even a two-year associate’s degree gives men a much bigger bang for their buck ($42,462 in median annual earnings) than it does for women ($29,091). And while earning a bachelor’s degree yielded a median annual of income of $38,221 for women, it produced a whopping $55,425 for men...

-If women in the workforce earned the same amounts as men who work the same number of hours, have the same education, age, and union status and live in the same region of the country, their annual family income would rise by about $4,000 and their poverty rates would be cut by half or more. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research has calculated that a typical woman who graduated college from 1984 and who was in her mid-40s in 2004 has lost more than $440,000 during that period due to the wage gap.
Lilly Ledbetter has brought this type of discrimination to the nation's attention and is tremendously important to all women living in the United States today. She worked for nearly two decades at a Goodyear plant in Alabama, where she was a supervisor. After being told by her boss that, in his opinion, women had no business working in a Goodyear plant, she suspected that she was being paid less than her male counterparts with similar experience and responsibilities. Yet, she had no proof, since Goodyear has a strict non-disclosure policy regarding pay. Not surprisingly, she was right:
Ms. Ledbetter had no proof until she received an anonymous note revealing the salaries of three of the male managers. After she filed a complaint with the EEOC, her case went to trial, and the jury awarded her back-pay and approximately $3.3 million in compensatory and punitive damages for the extreme nature of the pay discrimination to which she had been subject.

The Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit reversed the jury verdict, holding that her case was filed too late – even though Ms. Ledbetter continued to receive discriminatory pay – becausethe company’s original decision on her pay had been made years earlier. In a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Alito, the Supreme Court upheld the Eleventh Circuit decision and ruled that employees cannot challenge ongoing pay discrimination if the employer’s original discriminatory pay decision occurred outside of the statute of limitations period, even when the employee continues to receive paychecks that have been discriminatorily reduced.
In other words, she is punished because she could not know that she was being paid less than the men. The company, however, is under no obligation to inform her of their decision to discriminate against her. It will take the passage this the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to remedy her situation, and ours.

If you need more reminders of why this bill is important, go to Feministing, Female Impersonator, Feminist Law Professors, Real Women, Real Voices, or Viva La Feminista for more information. Also good for reading is Ruth Ginsburg's dissenting opinion. Remember too that, while you might see fewer posts about equal pay after Equal Pay Day (April 24) has passed, this problem won't get solved unless we keep the pressure on year-round.

(images via smallbiztechnology and The Washington Post)


Dee said...

What a judgement! Even though the discrimination was ongoing he brought out the old limitation argument.

It is cases like these which help to keep the female blogging movement alive. I don't live in the US but I will keep abreast of this.

La Pobre Habladora said...

Yeah, it is insane.

But now I'm curious... how do anti-discrimination laws work in other parts of the world?

Lindsay said...

Ruth Bader Ginsberg is so awesome. I'm continually amazed with how much she's been the voice of dissent in ridiculous cases like this one, especially now that she's the only woman on the bench.

La Pobre Habladora said...

Yeah, as Team Sanity gets smaller and smaller, it must be hard to keep fighting the good fight. I know I'd be tempted to just call in sick most days. She is incredible. And she's usually right, too.