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Now Comes Lilly Ledbetter
January 25, 2009
01:48 PM EST
01:48 PM EST
For incoming White House staff, the past few days have been a singularly thrilling -- and learning -- experience. Wide-eyed staffers roam the halls of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building with thick stacks of HR paperwork in hand, new phone numbers are being memorized -- and the line for coffee and club sandwiches is starting to grow as word spreads about the White House Mess. It's safe to say that working at the White House isn't something anyone can prepare for, but the career staff continue to work tirelessly to make the first few days as smooth as possible.
The new media team is coming online as well and our first priority is digging into this new website: improving some of the basic press office functions (like the timely posting of press releases, executive orders, etc.), developing content from other parts of the Administration to share with you and mapping out a plan for technology development. Thanks to heroic supporting roles by the Office of Administration's web and IT team (career government employees who span administrations), we were able to launch the new website. Now we begin the task of moving it forward.
Congress isn't waiting for the dust to settle though -- and neither is the President. Next week the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is due to be passed by Congress and sent to the President. The language within the Senate's version (S.181 [check it out on THOMAS, a service provided by the Library of Congress]) is likely to be the version that arrives on the President's desk for signature, and includes this summary:
A bill to amend title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and to modify the operation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, to clarify that a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice that is unlawful under such Acts occurs each time compensation is paid pursuant to the discriminatory compensation decision or other practice, and for other purposes.
The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act will restore the law to where it was before the Supreme Court's decision in Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Justice Ginsberg's dissent summarizes the facts of Ledbetter's complaint:
Lilly Ledbetter was a supervisor at Goodyear Tire and Rubber’s plant in Gadsden, Alabama, from 1979 until her retirement in 1998. For most of those years, she worked as an area manager, a position largely occupied by men. Initially, Ledbetter’s salary was in line with the salaries of men performing substantially similar work. Over time, however, her pay slipped in comparison to the pay of male area managers with equal or less seniority. By the end of 1997, Ledbetter was the only woman working as an area manager and the pay discrepancy between Ledbetter and her 15 male counterparts was stark: Ledbetter was paid $3,727 per month; the lowest paid male area manager received $4,286 per month, the highest paid, $5,236.
The Court ruled that employees subject to pay discrimination like Lilly Ledbetter must file a claim within 180 days of the employer's original decision to pay them less -- even if the employee continued to receive reduced paychecks and even if the employee did not discover the discriminatory reduction in pay until much later (check out Justice Alito's arguments in the Court's opinion). Restoring these rules means that complaints can be filed 180 days after any discriminatory paycheck.
President Obama has long championed this bill and Lilly Ledbetter's cause, and by signing it into law, he will ensure that women like Ms. Ledbetter and other victims of pay discrimination can effectively challenge unequal pay.