On Thursday, President Obama signed his first piece of legislation: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (photo credit, Ledbetter looking over the President's shoulder). The law overturns the Supreme Court 2007 ruling in Ledbetter v Goodyear, in which the Court held that an employee could not bring an action for wage discrimination more than 180 days after the first act of discrimination. Ledbetter had worked for Goodyear for 19 years when, several months before her retirement in 1998, she was tipped off by anonymous note that she was being paid less than men who held the same job. Unfortunately, this is not surprising. According to my ACLU e-newsletter, despite passage of the Equal Pay Act more than 45 years ago, (white) women currently average only 78 cents for every dollar men earn. Women of color earn even less. Even more unfortunately, the new law won't change this: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act will not grant fair pay, but restore the principle that an employee's right to take action to put an end to discrimination lasts as long as the discrimination continues by providing that each discriminatory paycheck issued resets the 180-day statute of limitations.
The ACLU therefore recommends we push for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which will close Equal Pay Act loopholes and strengthen its weak remedies. It will also strengthen outreach, education and enforcement efforts and prohibit retaliation against employees who ask about their employers' wage practices.