The not-so-proverbial glass ceiling

Posted by at 11:30AM

Do you know Lilly Ledbetter? Well, I don’t either (at least not personally), but her story is a familiar tale of women and pay discrimination. Girl meets world, girl gets job, girl works at Goodyear Tire for 20 or so years, girl gets anonymous memo at the brink of her retirement indicating that she has been the victim of chronic pay discrimination (making, on average, 30% less than numerous male peers). Girl’s plea gets rejected by the Supreme Court. Yea, that sounds about right. No, but seriously…

Lilly’s supervisors had prohibited her from discussing pay with her coworkers, enabling this vast discrepancy to persist for her entire professional career. When she did find out though, she brought the charges before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Long story short, Lebetter was awarded a bunch of money for back-pay, punitive damages, anguish etc… only to have it revoked because, well, it took her too long to file the law suit. According to Title VII, discrimination charges must be filed 180 after the initiation of the discrimination. That’s right, even though she found out about the discrimination 20 years after it’s initiation. Read more about it here.

Academics, politicians, and laypeople have all hypothesized about women and the infamous pay gap: women’s inability to negotiate pay, awkward gender dynamics in the workplace, women prioritizing motherhood over the office, etc… but this is a very real example of a woman speaking out against sex-based discrimination (and did I mention she is 70!), and the system is quashing her demand for justice. Senate republicans blocked a bill that would have instituted the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. McCain also spoke out against the bill, claiming that it would enable frivolous lawsuits to hurt big business. I’m speechless…


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