JANUARY 14, 2009
Ledbetter’s Story Shared by Countless Others
Additional “Real People" Tell Their Stories
Washington, DC (January 14, 2009) — For the countless number of women who find Lilly Ledbetter’s story of pay discrimination all too familiar, the upcoming Senate vote on key pay equity legislation is absolutely vital to giving them, and all women, critical tools they need to vindicate their rights and receive equal pay for equal work. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed cloture on the motion to proceed to consideration of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act on Tuesday night, with a vote expected as early as Thursday.
“The Supreme Court put the brakes on women’s ability to fight pay discrimination," said Marcia D. Greenberger, Co-President of the National Women’s Law Center, an expert in the law. “Passage of the Ledbetter bill is essential if women, whose paychecks are smaller every day because of discrimination, are to see justice."
With a bill that bears her name, Lilly Ledbetter has been thrust into the national spotlight as the face of pay equity. But her story of injustice is shared by women of all races, ethnicities and educational levels across the country. Just like Lilly Ledbetter, many of these women have been promoted, have received awards for their job performance, and still, despite their successes, have encountered pay discrimination that has deprived them of sorely-needed income.
Below are three women who have shared their stories with the National Women’s Law Center and are available to speak with the media.
Sharon Davis, Rhode Island
Sharon Davis learned shortly after she was hired in her position as a university administrator that she was making thousands less than a male colleague who held the same title. She also discovered that she was even making less than some lower ranking male employees in her department. Sharon quickly pointed out the disparity to her supervisors and tried over the course of several months to resolve the problem on her own. Not only did her employer fail to properly address the pay inequity; Sharon also reports experiencing retaliation and other forms of unequal treatment by her supervisor. Sharon to this day continues to receive paychecks that are lower than those paid to men doing the same job.
By the time Sharon gave up hope that she could resolve the problem on her own and decided to file a formal complaint, more than 180 days had passed since the pay discrimination had first begun. Sharon knows that whether her Title VII claim can now go forward is likely to depend on the passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
Arlene Ignico, Indiana
Dr. Arlene Ignico is the only tenured female professor in her department at a large university in India na. Although she was the first among a group of her colleagues to attain the rank of full Professor, Dr. Ignico recently became aware that four of her male colleagues, all promoted after her, make at least $10,000 more than she does.
Dr. Ignico recently filed a complaint with the university’s affirmative action office and remains hopeful that the situation can be resolved. However, because more than 180 days have passed since the discriminatory difference in pay first began, Dr. Ignico cannot now file a charge against her employer with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. For her too, the unrealistic rule imposed by the Supreme Court likely blocks her from ever seeking justice in the courts.
Dr. Linda Brodsky, New York
Dr. Linda Brodsky was a tenured, full professor of otolaryngology and pediatrics and the doctor in charge of a department at a large children’s hospital. She was the first woman to achieve tenure and the rank of Associate Professor at her medical school in a surgical field and was the only female surgeon at her hospital. Yet, as she discovered, her male colleagues, most with lower ranks and with fewer responsibilities, were being compensated by as much as five times more than she was.
Dr. Brodsky complained about the disparity to her employers and as a result the university removed her tenure and compensation and benefits. She went to court to regain her job and her status. She then sued both the university and the hospital for gender discrimination. After an extended legal battle she finally settled with the university in 2007 and resolved the issues with the hospital, now her former employers, in 2008. Dr. Brodsky realizes that if the Ledbetter rule had been in place at the time that she filed her lawsuit, she might never have been able to pursue justice.
“Lilly and I are just examples of the inequality affecting women at all levels of em ployment, and it’s about time we put some momentum into achieving women’s equality," said Dr. Brodsky. “The Ledbetter bill is essential to get us back to where we were so we can really move forward."
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is a modest and targeted response to the Supreme Court’s decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. It would restore the law that existed in virtually every region of the country prior to the Ledbetter decision by making clear that each discriminatory paycheck is a new act of discrimination that resets the 180-day limit to file a claim. In doing so, the bill would reestablish the law’s incentive for employers to evaluate and correct discriminatory pay practices and enable workers subject to discrimination to defend their rights. The Ledbetter bill does not, however, alter restrictions that deny plaintiffs any right to recover back pay for a period of more than two years before they challenge the discrimination.