On Wednesday, Senate Republicans filibustered the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, a law that would have overturned an appalling Supreme Court decision that practically abolished remedies for gender-based compensation discrimination in the workplace. (see: Republicans Filibuster Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act)
This Act is designed to address the problems faced by workers of both sexes when pay discrimination is ongoing and incremental. Lilly Ledbetter’s lawsuit against Goodyear Tire & Rubber was ruled in favor of Goodyear by the US Supreme Court (by a 5 to 4 decision) because Ms. Ledbetter did not file suit within 180 days of when the discriminatory pay rate was initiated. The fact that Ledbetter did not know that she was being paid less for the same work was irrelevant to the court’s majority.
The minority statement from the court contends that unlike a firing when timing is easy to establish, pay discrimination re-occurs each time the company in question cuts a new paycheck and therefore pay discrimination lawsuits must be filed within 180 days of the most recent paycheck and not 180 days from when the discrimination first began.
The bill is summarized as:
To amend title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 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.
In opposing this legislation, Senator John McCain said that if women want better-paying jobs, they just need more “education and training.” Then, he didn’t even show up for the vote.
Explaining his position, McCain said:
“They need the education and training, particularly since more and more women are heads of their households, as much or more than anybody else, and it’s hard for them to leave their families when they don’t have somebody to take care of them.”
Last time I looked, women in management and supervisory roles tend to have at least as good of an education and training as their male counterparts. Perhaps his statement would have made sense even 15 or 20 years ago. The graph on the right, based on U.S. Census Bureau data, shows that since 1991, the proportion of young women enrolled in college has exceeded the enrollment rate for young men, and the gap has widened over time.
“Since 1991, the proportion of young women enrolled in college has exceeded the enrollment rate for young men, and the gap has widened over time. In 2005, about 43 percent of women ages 18 to 24 were enrolled in college, compared with 35 percent of young men. This represents a major shift in the gender balance at U.S. colleges and universities. Between 1970 and 2005, the gender composition has shifted to the extent that women now make up the majority – 54 percent – of the 10.8 million young adults enrolled in college.” – The Crossover in Female-Male College Enrollment Rates by Mark Mather and Dia Adams.
Lilly Ledbetter’s Case’s Background. “In 1979 Lilly Ledbetter, the plaintiff, began work at the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company in its Gadsden, Alabama location. During her years at the factory, raises were given and denied based on evaluations and recommendations regarding worker performance. In March 1998, Ledbetter inquired into the possible sexual discrimination of the Goodyear Tire Company. In July she filed formal charges with the EEOC. In November 1998, after early retirement, Ledbetter sued claiming pay discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Equal Pay Act of 1963.”
I know the campaign season is a busy time for the remaining candidates, but both Obama and Clinton managed to get their votes in to allow this Act to proceed to a vote by the full Senate. Sen. McCain and fellow Republican Senator Hagel of Nebraska were the only two Senators to not vote Yay or Nay on this Act.
If you would like to let Senator McCain know how you feel on this issue, you can take action here.